08/15/2002 12:00AM

Waltzin' Storm gives Casse a tough entry


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Waltzin' Storm, unbeaten in two starts this year, will form a powerful Mark Casse-trained entry with Davids Expectation in the $173,250 Play the King Handicap at Woodbine Saturday.

The seven-furlong turf dash is a prep for the $1 million Atto Mile, a Grade 1 fixture here Sept. 8.

Waltzin' Storm has won five of his last six outings, dating back to his maiden win on July 6 of last year. He was shelved for the last portion of 2001 after finishing up the course in an $80,000 optional claimer on Sept. 14, and won a key seven-furlong event at that level when he resurfaced on June 19.

Waltzin' Storm defeated Frank's Selection and Gone Fishin on July 7 in a seven-furlong, $100,000 optional claimer. Casse is ticked with the 4-year-old's progress this year.

"We're really excited about him," said Casse. "He's come back strong from his last race. He easily beat Frank's Selection, who came back to run two good races."

Casse said Waltzin' Storm had a valid excuse in his only sub par showing during his 5-for-6 streak.

"He came back sore," Casse recalled. "He pulled a muscle in behind, which is why we gave him the rest of the year off."

Davids Expectation, a 3-year-old, won three straight allowance/optional claimers on the main track earlier in the meeting. He finished a respectable fourth in the allowance prep for the Play the King after dueling through quick splits.

"We're running him to make sure there's some pace in the race," Casse said, noting that Davids Expectations "put away" Sam Lord's Castle in that last race "and was the only one of the early leaders who was around at the end."

Among the other 10 runners entered in the Grade 3 event were last year's winner, Mr. Epperson, Steady Ruckus, and Dawn Watcher. Steady Ruckus and Dawn Watcher were also entered in Saturday's $106,000 With Approval Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for Canadian-breds.

Mr. Epperson, last year's Canadian champion sprinter, has found the mark just once in six starts this year. He trailed the field after pressing a rapid pace two starts ago in the Grade 2 Nearctic Handicap on turf, and is coming off another dull effort on the main track in allowance company.

Trainer Scott Fairlie is frustrated with Mr. Epperson's spotty form.

"He seems to be doing good," said Fairlie. "For some reason, I can't get him on the right track. I sent him to the farm for a few weeks after his last race, and he's come back good."