06/27/2002 11:00PM

Will the real Lasting Code show up for Irish Day?

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AUBURN, Wash. - The local 3-year-old filly division underwent a major shake-up when the leading lights last got together in the one-mile Kent Handicap on June 2 at Emerald Downs. Lasting Code, who seemed perched firmly atop the division after a pair of impressive sprint stakes wins, never got into the race and finished last of eight at 3-5, while Dolly's Hit Lady, previously a denizen of the claiming ranks, shot to the head of the class with a four-length tally in a highly creditable 1:35.60.

The question for those handicapping Sunday's Irish Day Handicap at 1 1/16 miles is whether the Kent results signaled a lasting shift in power within the division or were simply an aberration.

Bob McMeans, who took over Lasting Code's training when Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms purchased her privately about a week before the Kent, prefers to believe that race was a fluke. Still, he can't be sure. Lasting Code's poor performance would be easy to explain if she had bled, or swallowed her tongue, or lost a shoe. But none of those things happened.

"It was more a combination of little things," McMeans said. "I realize now that she came into the race a little dull. I didn't know her and I assumed she was just a very laid-back filly, but now I see that she does her share of bucking and squealing when she is feeling good.

"Then in the race itself she got away badly and was pushed wide on the first turn, so she never got up near the lead. I think she likes to be in the race from the beginning, so the bad start took her out of her game. It was a little like War Emblem in the Belmont.

"And she came out of the race with some joint soreness, which may have been the result of the awkward start. There was no swelling or heat in her joints, but when we flexed them we could tell they were tender and that had to be bugging her.

"Anyway she didn't fire, but I think she had some excuses and I believe we have addressed her problems. She has been working well and feeling good, so we're hoping the real Lasting Code will show up on Sunday.

Dolly just might be for real

Trainer Tim McCanna feels the real Dolly's Hit Lady showed up in the Kent. McCanna recognized her potential when she won her first route attempt in January at Golden Gate, drawing off to defeat $25,000 claimers by eight lengths. He was at first baffled when she followed that effort with two flat performances against allowance and starter allowance company, but not for long.

"We scoped her after her second bad race and discovered she had been bleeding pretty badly," said McCanna. "I gave her some time off, and she came back better than ever. I really wasn't that surprised she ran so well in the Kent. I think she is a nice filly who is getting better, and I'm really pretty excited about her."

Forster's four-pronged assault

Trainer Dave Forster and his son Grant, who runs the local division of the stable, don't have a filly who has yet reached the stature of Lasting Code or Dolly's Hit Lady, but they have numbers. The Forsters will send out winners Apieceoftheaction and You've Got Action, who ran fourth as the favorite in the

1 1/16-mile Liberation Handicap at Hastings Park on June 16; Miss Ballard, who was a closing second in the Kent; and It's Stevie's Time, an impressive maiden winner at a mile on June 1.

"We're going to gang up on them," said Grant Forster. "Really, they are all nice fillies with different owners, and it wouldn't be fair to deny any of them a shot.

"Classic Action had been finishing really well in her sprints and everyone thought she wanted to route, but she was flat in the Liberation and she didn't have an excuse. She is a huge filly and my dad has always felt she needed a mile track, so we're hoping this track will move her up.

"We thought Miss Ballard ran great in the Kent, but she just couldn't catch Dolly's Hit Lady after she got loose on the lead. It didn't help that she was wide the whole way, but at least she showed us she can get a mile and a sixteenth."

"It's Stevie's Time didn't seem as far along as Miss Ballard, but she ran huge in her maiden win and she seems to be improving fast. Her mother [Run Away Stevie] was a multiple stakes winner and she is by Quiet American, who adds a lot of stamina, so she has a license to be any kind.

"I really couldn't choose between the three of them. I guess that's what Sunday is for."