07/02/2001 11:00PM

Speedster up against the Kid

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AUBURN, Wash. - Handy N Bold will get his sternest test of the year on Wednesday when he heads a small but strong field of five including Kid Katabatic in the $40,000 Independence Day Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Handy N Bold, a 6-year-old son of Bold Laddie who races for Doris Orr, was named sprinter of the meeting at Emerald Downs last year when he won three sprint stakes, including the Independence Day. He picked up right where he left off this season, winning the six-furlong Seattle Handicap and the 6 1/2-furlong Fox Sports Net Handicap in his first two starts.

A front-runner, the Charlie Essex-trained Handy N Bold carries high weight of 122 pounds, including regular rider Hector Ventura Jr. He concedes from three to nine pounds to his rivals.

Mike K and Kid Katabatic, two of the most accomplished horses ever to race at Emerald, head the opposition. Both are making their seasonal debuts.

Mike K, who narrowly missed against Budroyale in the 1999 Longacres Mile, sat out all of last season with a suspensory injury, but has trained extremely well for his comeback.

Kid Katabatic, who won the 1997 Longacres Mile and captured a pair of stakes last year, has also been training well. An 8-year-old, Kid Katabatic is the richest horse in the stakes, with $535,688 in earnings from 14 wins in 31 starts.

Crafty Boy, stakes placed on numerous occasions, and April Surprise, who will be counted upon to keep Handy N Bold honest on the lead, round out the field.

Wednesday's 11-race holiday card gets under way at 1 p.m.