04/21/2003 11:00PM

Third generation something special

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AUBURN, Wash. - Bisbee's Prospect didn't just win Saturday's opening-day U.S. Bank Stakes at Emerald Downs. She utterly dominated the six furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, winning by nearly five lengths over pacesetter Tavy's Plan in 1:08.20. The clocking obliterated the stakes record of 1:08.80 set last year by Lasting Code, herself an exceptional filly.

It was the kind of performance that breeder and owner Jerre Paxton and trainer Bob McMeans were hoping for but scarcely dared to expect.

"We knew she could run like that, but we didn't know if she would, especially after she broke a little slowly and had to race in traffic early," said McMeans. "She had never really been in traffic before, so it was good to see that she could handle it.

"I think it was especially gratifying for Jerre. He raised her, and he raised her mother, and he even raised her mother's mother. When the connection goes back that far, you've got to be proud of them when they do well. Jerre likes all of his fillies, but I think he especially likes this one."

McMeans and Paxton also campaigned a half-sister to Bisbee's Prospect, Taste the Passion, who won her first three starts but was bumped hard near the wire while winning the 1999 WTBA Lassie Stakes via disqualification. Though she went on to race 13 more times and placed in six more stakes, she was never really the same and she never won again.

"Taste the Passion was easily intimidated after that race, and she never really ran to her ability," said McMeans. "I've always felt this filly was better than her sister, though, and she is a lot tougher. I have high hopes for her."

Bisbee's Prospect, who is by Smart Strike out of Bisbee, by Believe It, has now won 2 of 3 starts and has $38,075 in earnings. Bisbee's Prospect, as well as the U.S. Bank runner-up, Tavy's Plan, and the third-place finisher, Top Penny, will now be pointed for the $45,000 Federal Way Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs on May 11.

Baze quick from the gate

Robbie Baze is starting just his third season of training at Emerald, yet he won with both Honorable Knight and Top O Morn on opening day and took the early lead in the trainer standings.

"It was awesome to start off like that," he said. "My only regret is that somebody claimed Honorable Knight, but that's the way it goes. When you enter them where you think they can win, you risk losing them."

Baze, 38, has been galloping horses for 20 years, and his services as an exercise rider have been very much in demand. That demand can no longer be met.

"I still gallop my own horses, but I'm just too busy now to gallop any others," he said.

"I started out training four horses two years ago, then I had 15 last year. Now I have 21 horses, and it's really a full-time job."

Baze said he started his horses training at Reber Ranch in January and moved them here when the track opened for training in February.

"I made a special effort to have them all ready to go for the start of this meeting," he said. "I even got prep races into a few of them at Portland Meadows, so I hope they will be able to compete pretty well."

Baze comes by his horsemanship naturally, as he hails from a family that has provided Northwest tracks with trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, horseshoers, stall superintendents, and gate and maintenance crew workers for at least three generations. His father, Eldon Baze, and his uncle Buford Baze were both trainers.

Opening-day business up

Ron Crockett, president of Emerald, was more than pleased with business on opening day, as a big ontrack crowd turned out and wagered $1,086,740 on Emerald's races and incoming simulcasts, an increase of 15 percent over last season's Friday-night opener.

The total handle from all sources of $1,570,132 - which includes simulcasts - and the total of $1,087,996 wagered at all outlets on only Emerald's races showed similar increases.

"Given the state of the economy, I'm very pleased with those numbers," said Crockett. "They are comparable to some of our past opening days, but if somebody had come up to me at the beginning of the day and told me we would have a total all-sources handle of $1.3 million, I wouldn't have found that out of line."