12/04/2002 12:00AM

Add blinkers and rate, and watch Stately Jack Flash win

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PORTLAND, Ore. - So this is what all the fuss was about.

Stately Jack Flash was the talk of the local backstretch before this meet opened, when he outworked every other horse on the track. Although he ran well enough in his first two starts, winning his debut against maiden special weight company and finishing a close second in the Bill Wineberg Stakes, he hardly lived up to his billing.

"We were beginning to question whether he was the kind of horse we thought he was, especially after the Wineberg," said trainer and part-owner Cookie Root. "He just wasn't showing us the same ability in the afternoons that he was showing us in the mornings."

In an attempt to tap the colt's potential, Root made some changes for Sunday's Columbia River Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs. She added blinkers and she told rider Juan Gutierrez to take Stately Jack Flash well off the early pace.

The hope was that the homebred son of Stately Wager would take a step forward and set himself up for a peak effort in the rich Oregon Futurity at one mile on Dec. 14. But Stately Jack Flash gave his connections more than they bargained for.

Knightsbridge Road, an Emerald Downs stakes winner and heavy favorite, put away early challenges from second choice Right You Are and Banshee Boy and appeared to hold a safe lead entering the stretch, but Stately Jack Flash gathered momentum inside the furlong marker. Though the favorite fought back gamely once headed, Stately Jack Flash continued to inch away in the final sixteenth to score by a half-length in 1:12.20.

"This is vindication," Root said. "He beat a real racehorse, and he did it like a professional. I'm not sure whether it was the blinkers or the rating tactics that made the difference, but I guess it doesn't matter. We won't change anything for his next race."

Stately Jack Flash was one of four winners on Sunday for Gutierrez, who increased his lead to six (26-20) over his closest pursuers in the jockey standings, Marijo Terleski and Kevin Murray.

"The way he finished today, I've got to think I've got a lot of horse for the Futurity," Gutierrez said. "He's a very nice colt, and now he is starting to show what he can do."

Gutierrez completed a stakes double in the Columbia River, as he also rode Back Street Gal to an upset win in Saturday's Lassie Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Back Street Gal, who went off at 8-1, came through along the rail entering the stretch and drew out to win by nearly six lengths over even-money favorite Our Lucky Kiss in 1:13.40 for six furlongs.

Back Street Gal, a daughter of Cisco Road and Mi Moment, was one of three entrants saddled by trainer Jim Fergason, who stands her sire at his farm in Vancouver. Fergason and owner Bill Hepperle had sold the filly a couple of months ago, but they took her back after she was injured in a vanning mishap.

"We knew she was sound when we sold her and it was just a superficial injury, so we didn't mind taking her back," Fergason said. "It's funny how these things work out. I don't think we'd sell her again."

The Lassie was only Back Street Gal's second start. She won her debut despite breaking slowly and being blocked in the stretch.

"Again, that was a case of things working out for the best," Fergason said. "If she had gone to the front and led all the way in her debut, she might not have been ready to go through on the inside in the stakes. She learned a lot in her first race, and it came in handy on Saturday."

* Former leading rider Joe Crispin returned to Portland Meadows last weekend, and although he didn't win any races, he was pleased. "I'm just glad to be here," Crispin said. "I broke my neck in a spill at Great Lakes Downs on June 11, and for a while I was paralyzed. I feel real lucky to be back up."

* Trainer Eulia Bischoff continued her hot streak last weekend, scoring with three of her five starters. The wins gave the 76-year-old Bischoff 12 wins from 26 starters at the meet.