05/31/2002 12:00AM

Salt Grinder spices Klondike

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - One of the reasons that Salt Grinder is making the trip up from Emerald Downs to run in Sunday's Klondike Stakes is that he's a British Columbia-bred and is eligible for bonus money available to province-breds. But he might not have come if he hadn't flipped in the gate and been scratched in the Auburn Stakes at Emerald May 4.

"It set us back a little bit," said his trainer at Emerald, Kay Cooper. "Nothing major, but he wasn't quite ready to run in the Auburn Stakes last weekend, so we thought we would send him up there this week."

Cooper is planning to enter about eight horses at Emerald on Sunday, so she's sending her father, Jim Penney, up to Hastings to saddle Salt Grinder.

Her husband, Bryson Cooper, shipped Salt Grinder up to Hastings earlier in the week and was aboard for his three-furlong blowout in 35.80 seconds over a sloppy track May 29.

"Bryson knows him real well and also is familiar with the track at Hastings," Kay Cooper said. "We wanted to see if he liked the surface and how well he was going to handle the turns. [Bryson] said everything went perfect."

Cooper left Salt Grinder at Hastings under the care of Tracy McCarthy, jockey Chris Loseth's wife. Loseth has been galloping Salt Grinder, which is interesting, because he rides the horse that Salt Grinder figures to battle it out early with in the Klondike, Commodore Craig.

Salt Grinder could be any kind. He has started only twice and won both races, and in his lone start this year, at Emerald Downs, he won a 5 1/2-furlong $50,000 optional race in track-record time of 1:01.40. The horse he beat, Bold Ranger, came back to win both the Auburn Stakes May 4 and the Pepsi-Cola Stakes on Monday. In the Pepsi-Cola, Bold Ranger equaled the 6 1/2-furlong track record of 1:13.80 and earned a 103 Beyer Figure.

Salt Grinder faces a stern test Sunday, with three stakes winners in the race, and how he'll respond to being hooked by Commodore Craig is a big question.

"I don't think he needs to be in front," said Kay Cooper. "He obviously has a lot of speed but he certainly acts like he'll rate."

Long Rifle, also expected for the Klondike, was the favorite when Commodore Craig won the City of Vancouver, but finished sixth.

"It turned out his thyroid was bothering him," said his trainer, David Forster. "We've treated him for it and he seems to be responding. He should run better but it's only a sprint, and I think he'll really improve when he goes further."

Kid Katabatic in Longden

Kid Katabatic and Lord Nelson are among 13 horses nominated to the John Longden 6000, which will be run next Sunday. According to Lord Nelson's trainer, Dino Condilenios, Lord Nelson might not enter because of a minor problem with his foot.

Shauna Ferguson, who trains Kid Katabatic, was originally planning to skip the Longden, but because of the way "the Kid" came out of his impressive win in the Spring Sprint Stakes May 18, she has changed her mind.

"He's like a bear right now," she said. "If the weather holds and the track stays good, we'll run."

Bear sighting

Speaking of bears, an actual bear wandered onto the Hastings backstretch Thursday morning, and after being chased out of the barn area he ran onto the main track before jumping over the outside fence.

"He worked about a sixteenth of a mile, but it was pretty slow," joked Phil Heard, Hastings general manager.

Heard said the bear came back Thursday night and again was chased away.

o After catching an infection in one of his legs, multiple stakes winner Ball and Chain was euthanized last week, reported his owner and trainer, Allan Jack. Ball and Chain won the George Royal Stakes last year and was one of the favorites for the B.C. Derby in 2000. He won the Richmond Derby Trial and Mr. Prime Minister that year.