05/31/2004 11:00PM

'Attitude' finally has right outlook


AUBURN, Wash. - If Northwest Attitude were in school, he would have spent most of the last year in remedial classes.

"He was just a very slow-learning horse," said trainer Rick Terry. "I thought he was dyslexic or something. It just didn't seem like he was ever going to get it."

Northwest Attitude, a 3-year-old son of Free at Last, required nine races before finally collecting his maiden win here against modest $12,500 company on opening day, April 16. He came back to run a surprisingly strong fourth in the six-furlong Auburn Stakes on May 2, and on Monday he scored a come-from-behind victory in the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap.

Under Amir Cedeno, who has now won with six of nine mounts for Terry this meeting, Northwest Attitude bided his time in sixth position as Spin the Wind and Pool Boy dueled through a half-mile in 43.40 seconds. Northwest Attitude then closed with a rush to win by a length in 1:13.80. Favored Pool Boy held second in just his third career start, finishing a length ahead of Spanish Highway.

Northwest Attitude's clocking would have equaled the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs if Best on Tap hadn't established a new mark of 1:13.60 just one race earlier. Obviously, the track was lightening fast.

"The surface is perfect right now," said Emerald vice president Jack Hodge. "We've got this nice, cool weather and just the right amount of moisture in the track."

Northwest Attitude paid $21.60 to win, but he would have paid much more if he hadn't been coupled with the more highly regarded Execptional Game, who is also owned by the partnership of Pamela Thomas and Pam Terry, Terry's assistant trainer and wife, respectively. Only Cedeno and Terry seemed to have an inkling that Northwest Attitude had gotten as good as he demonstrated he was on Monday.

"The light really came on after his maiden win," said Terry. "Now, every time we throw a leg over him he gets better and better and better."

The Pepsi-Cola was Terry's second stakes win at the meeting and his 11th win from 30 starts. When asked to explain his hot start, Terry credited his wife, Cedeno, and economic necessity.

"With the price of gas, we can't afford to run bad," he said.

Contest winner selects Frazier

Monday's eighth race, in which the older runner Best on Tap broke the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs, doubled as the Win-A-Jockey Sweepstakes. Ten fans selected by lot were matched with the 10 horses in the race, with the fan being paired with the winner getting the equivalent of 1 percent of the purse earnings of the jockey of his or her choice at the meeting.

Jessica Pennington, a 25-year-old resident of Orting, Wash., had second choice and chose Best on Tap, the 6-5 favorite. After Best on Tap won by a nose over 8-1 shot Pazhalsta, Pennington chose Ricky Frazier as her jockey. Frazier, who is tied with Gallyn Mitchell atop the jockey standings with 27 wins through the first 24 days of the meeting, has already banked $267,311 in purse earnings at the meet, so Pennington's earnings stand at $2,673 and counting.

Poker Brad wins prep race

Poker Brad, the runner up to Sky Jack in last year's Grade 3 Longacres Mile, made his first appearance at the meet in a mile optional claiming event on Sunday. Favored at 1-2 over only three rivals, Poker Brad defeated Briartic Gold by a length in 1:33.80.

"I didn't know about this race until a week ago, so I sure wasn't pointing him to it," said trainer Tim McCanna. "I had planned on training him up to the first route stakes [the $75,000 Budweiser Emerald Downs Breeders Cup at a mile on June 20]. He had been working right along, though, so I thought I'd go for it. Now I won't have to train him so hard for the stakes."

McCanna said no decision has been made regarding Willie the Cat's participation in the Budweiser Emerald Downs Breeders Cup. Willie the Cat, who is undefeated in six starts at Emerald, is recovering from his strenuous victory in the 6 1/2-furlong Fox Sports Net Handicap on May 23.

Services planned for Gary Henson

Memorial services for longtime Longacres announcer Gary Henson will be held on Wednesday, June 9, at 12:30 p.m. in the Morris J. Alhadeff Sales Pavilion on the grounds of Emerald Downs.

Henson, who served as the voice of Longacres from 1973 until the track closed in 1992, died on May 22 at the age of 60.

Henson was the son of legendary race caller Harry Henson, who was the announcer at Longacres from 1938 through 1954 before serving in the same post at Hollywood Park from 1958 through 1982. Gary Henson also called races at Playfair, Yakima Meadows, Portland Meadows, Hollywood Park, Ruidoso Downs, and The Woodlands. He had been ill for the last several years.