08/07/2003 11:00PM

Weepinbell may wind up overlooked


AUBURN, Wash. - Most of the attention in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Seattle Slew Breeders' Cup Handicap, the final prep for the $125,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby on Sept. 1, will be focused on the three highweights.

Condotierri, 122 pounds, will be a deserving favorite off his 5 3/4-length victory in last month's 1 1/16-mile Tacoma Handicap, which seemed to fulfill the promise he showed in winning last season's Gottstein Futurity at the same distance.

Knightsbridge Road, 119, the runner-up in the Tacoma and the winner of the one-mile Table Run Stakes in his previous outing, will have his share of backers off the admirable consistency he has shown while finishing in the money in 12 of 13 starts. He also is the only proven early speed in the field.

And Canadian invader Stratoplan, 117, who wowed Hastings fans on June 28 with his commanding five-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Burnaby Breeders' Cup Handicap - the lightly raced gelding's first venture into the stakes ranks - will draw the allegiance of those who remain unconvinced of the quality of the local stars.

With the big three hogging the spotlight, Weepinbell, who ranks fourth in the weights at 116 pounds, might slip through the wagering almost unnoticed.

Weepinbell, the "other" Hastings invader, has raced only once this year at 3, finishing an even third against $50,000 optional claiming company going 6 1/2 furlongs on July 13. Last year, however, he won two of his four starts and finished second to divisional champ Illusive Force in the $139,000 Ascot Graduation at 1 1/16 miles.

Gary Demorest, who trains Weepinbell for Diglett Stables at Hastings, shipped the gelding to local trainer Roy Lumm on July 22, and Lumm has been impressed with his new charge.

"He has settled in very nicely," said Lumm. "I have worked him twice, and I thought he really picked it up in his second work. They caught him in 1:13.20 for six furlongs, but the big thing was the way he did it. He went easy and finished up strong. It looks like he is set to run a good race, and if he comes out of this race well the plan will be to run him in the derby."

Though Weepinbell will be attempting to go long off a single sprint prep, he is certainly bred for the task. His sire, Alydeed, is a Queen's Plate winner, while his dam, Bolt From the Blue, won the Grade 3 La Prevoyante Handicap at Woodbine. Bolt From the Blue is a half-sister to Alydar's Best, who won the Group 1 Grand Criterium Stakes in France at 2 and ran second at 3 in the Group 1 Irish Oaks and the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Invitational at Santa Anita.

Run Max Run stretches out

Run Max Run also will start in the Seattle Slew after just one sprint prep - but it was quite a prep.

Run Max Run, a son of Cherokee Run who races for breeder Sandee Kirkwood, made his 3-year-old debut against $50,000 optional claiming company on July 6 and defeated a tough field that included Seattle Slew rival Too Fast to Top with surprising ease. He scored by more than three lengths in 1:15.20 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

That made it three wins in a row for Run Max Run, who scored his maiden win against $16,000 company in his second start at 2 and concluded his juvenile campaign with a win over $50,000 claimers at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"He is quite a nice colt," said trainer Grant Forster. "He has gotten better with every start, and now we are kind of curious about how good he can get. I guess we'll get some kind of idea on Sunday."

Forster admitted that he would have preferred to get another race into Run Max Run before throwing him in against stakes company, but he doesn't feel he will be sending out a short horse.

"I've been able to get three strong works into him since his race, so I think he is ready," said the trainer. "His pedigree is suited for a middle distance, so this race should be a good test for him. Obviously Condotierri is the one to beat, or at least he is in my mind, but I expect our horse to take another step forward and be competitive. If he does that, then we'll know we have a [Emerald] Derby horse."

Alfurune back from freshening

Part-owner and assistant trainer Diane Garrison reported that Alfurune, who won the Independence Day Handicap before finishing a good third to Poker Brad after a wide trip in the Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 27, returned to the track on Wednesday after a brief freshening at the farm.

Alfurune, a 5-year-old son of Alfaari, will go next in the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 24.

* The Washington Horse Racing Commission will meet Thursday in the council chambers at Auburn City Hall at 10:30 a.m. Among the items on the agenda is the introduction of the commission's newest member, Dr. Robert Mead. The appointment of Mead, who retired as Washington's state veterinarian, brings the commission back up to full strength with five members.