05/07/2002 12:00AM

Sophomore class now looks strong

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AUBURN, Wash. - Horses can change dramatically between their 2- and 3-year-old seasons, and that is apparently as true of divisions as it is of individuals.

Last year's crop of juveniles at Emerald Downs, especially the males, was generally regarded as sub-par. None of the stakes for the division was won in a fast time, and some were excruciatingly slow.

All that has changed this year, as one 3-year-old after another has emerged to post impressive wins in brilliant times. Debut runner Willie the Cat and second-time starter Salt Grinder were the stars of the opening weekend of racing at Emerald, setting track records for 5 1/2 furlongs in consecutive races. Last weekend it was the same story with a different cast of characters, as four more sophomores gave notice that they would be forces to reckon with in future stakes.

First there was Flying Notes, who won a six-furlong allowance race last Saturday by seven widening lengths in a dazzling 1:08.20, just two ticks off the track record held jointly by handicap stars Handy N Bold and Crowning Meeting. It was the third impressive win from four starts for Flying Notes, a French Deputy colt trained by Bud Klokstad for owners Johnny and Ruth Lewis, and Klokstad indicated he would be joining the stakes ranks in the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi-Cola Handicap on May 27.

Two races later, All in One made his case for stakes consideration, winning his debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight race with a late rush that carried him to the wire 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Six Penny Lane in 1:09.60. Though the time couldn't compare with Flying Notes's clocking, the way All in One scored was just as promising, as he seemed to gallop out even stronger than he finished.

"I think his future will be routing, though I'm not in any hurry to stretch him out," said Dave Forster, who trains All in One for owner Herman Sarkowsky. "He is by Hawk Attack, who is a distance influence, and he is out of a mare by Tri Jet, who adds a lot of toughness to his pedigree. I think he'll be a nice horse, but I don't want to rush him. He'll probably go next in a nonwinners-of-two allowance."

Forster has a trio of 3-year-olds in training for Sarkowsky, who has campaigned such good ones as champion Phone Chatter and dual Grade 1 stakes winner Dixie Union on the national stage. Besides All in One, Sarkowsky owns Miss Ballard, who will make her stakes debut in Sunday's Federal Way Handicap after posting an impressive win over maiden special weight company in her only start on opening weekend, and Iron Top, who finished a closing fifth in last Saturday's six-furlong Auburn Stakes.

Bold Ranger capitalizes on scratch

The Auburn was supposed to be a showcase for Salt Grinder, who was a strong favorite when he reared in the gate to eject rider Kris Prather. Though neither horse nor rider turned out to be seriously injured, Salt Grinder was scratched as a precautionary measure. That opened the door for Bold Ranger, who had run second to Salt Grinder in his record-setting allowance win, and Colony Lane, a maiden making only his second start after running second in Willie the Cat's track-record win.

Bold Ranger and Colony Lane both came from off the pace of three-time stakes winner Devil's Enemy to duel through the stretch, with Bold Ranger prevailing by 1 1/4 lengths in a rapid 1:08.80. Bold Ranger then withstood a stewards' inquiry for drifting out late, slightly impeding Colony Lane. It was the second win from six starts for Bold Ranger, a Game Plan gelding trained by Mark Molina for Remmah Racing Inc.

"He's a very nice horse and I didn't think he'd lose last time, but he just got outrun by Salt Grinder," said Molina. "Obviously, it helped us a lot that Salt Grinder didn't get to run in this race, and it looks as though we were fortunate that Klokstad decided to run Flying Notes in the allowance race. This is getting to be a very tough stakes division, and it's going to get a lot tougher before long."

Lesser half of entry saves the day

Klokstad demonstrated the wisdom of fielding an entry in last Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Hastings Park Handicap for older fillies and mares. Personal Decision, the more highly regarded half of Klokstad's stable coupling, was dueled into submission by Silky Secret, but entrymate Neon Queen saved the day for those who had bet the entry down to even money, closing along the outside to score by 1 1/2 lengths over Silky Secret in 1:09.20. It was the first stakes win for Neon Queen, whom Klokstad claimed for owners David Taylor and Anthony Segale last summer for $40,000.

* Jockey Oscar Mancilla sustained a fractured collar bone in a paddock mishap on Friday night and is expected to be sidelined for the next four to eight weeks.