01/16/2003 1:00AM

Beluga Star a threat to In Search of Fame


PORTLAND, Ore. - Quarter Horse standout In Search of Fame could face a stern challenge on Saturday when he shoulders high weight of 131 pounds and meets Beluga Star in the $6,000-added Director's Handicap at Portland Meadows.

Trainer James Glenn Jr. is always confident when he saddles the 7-year-old In Search of Fame here, as well he should be. A gelded son of Dash Ta Fame, In Search of Fame has won a remarkable 19 of 21 starts here, including his last eight in a row. Even so, Glenn has a great deal of respect for emerging star Beluga Star, who poses what appears to be the most serious challenge to In Search of Fame in the 350-yard race.

"I think Beluga Star could be trouble," said Glenn. "In Search of Fame ran against him last spring at Kennewick, and Beluga Star broke slowly and had to loop to the rail for running room. We only beat him a length and a half, and that was just the second start of his life. He was green then, but I notice he's not doing anything wrong these days."

Beluga Star, a lightly raced 6-year-old from the barn of trainer Don Young, has been extremely impressive in two starts on the straightaway at this meeting. He defeated allowance runners by nearly a length despite finishing under a snug hold in November, then demolished another allowance field by nearly two lengths on Jan. 5, when he got 350 yards in 18.11 seconds. The time compared favorably with the clocking of 18.06 seconds that In Search of Fame posted a day earlier in a half-length score over allowance rivals at the same distance.

After the Director's Handicap, Glenn intends to point In Search of Fame toward the $6,000-added Mayor's Cup at 870 yards on closing day, April 27.

"We've never had a chance to run him around the hook, and we're curious to see how he will do," he said. "If he runs well, it will open up a lot more options for him."

Barn hits four straight targets

Trainer Cookie Root's barn shifted in to overdrive last week, when Root and her assistant, Dwayne Gallagher, saddled four consecutive winners, culminating in Stately Jack Flash's victory over some of the 3-year-old division's other leading lights in Saturday's six-furlong allowance feature. Stately Jack Flash pressed the pace racing three-wide before drawing off to score by 1 1/2 lengths over the fast-finishing Yada Yada Yada in 1:11.60.

"We didn't really want to see him up on the lead, but it worked out all right," said Gallagher. "I think maybe we were lucky Yada Yada Yada got a bad start. Our horse finishes a lot better when he relaxes early, and he is going to have to do that to win the route stakes that are coming up.

Gallagher said Stately Jack Flash, who now boasts a record of three wins and two seconds from five starts, will be pointed toward the $25,000 Oregon Derby at nine furlongs on April 13, with stops along the way in the six-furlong Flying Lark Stakes on Feb. 9, the 1 1/16-mile McFadden Memorial on March 2, and the 1 1/16-mile Preview Stakes on March 22.

Yada Yada Yada yet to hit full stride

Though Yada Yada Yada has finished behind Stately Jack Flash in his last two outings, Yada Yada Yada may yet prove to be the better horse.

A long-striding son of Can't Be Slew from the barn of Nick Lowe, Yada Yada Yada upset the heavily favored Stately Jack Flash when he debuted in the six-furlong Bill Wineberg Stakes, then finished third to his rival's second after breaking very slowly in the Oregon Futurity at a mile. He again got away last on Saturday, and it may have cost him the win.

"I schooled him in the gate after he broke in the air in the Futurity, but on Saturday it was a different kind of a deal," said Lowe. "The ground broke out from under him, and he was stumbling for the first three jumps. It seemed like it took him forever to get into stride, but he did finish in a hurry.

"I'm really not overly concerned about the gate problems, because he isn't making the same mistakes twice. I don't think he's going to make a habit of breaking slowly."

* Racing secretary Jerry Kohls reported that of the 1,175 sets of registration papers now on file in the race office, 372 are for Oregon-breds. The statebreds have 10 of the 27 stakes on the schedule to themselves.

* Near-millionaire Rob 'N Gin will stand the 2003 breeding season at Painted Desert Farm in Redmond, Ore. Rob 'N Gin, an 8-year-old son of Farma Way who stood the last two seasons in New York, won nine of his 30 starts, including two Grade 2 stakes, for earnings of $989,178.

* Trainers will be able to set up their barns at Emerald Downs on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 1 and 2, and the track will be open for training on Monday, Feb. 3. Grant Holcomb, Emerald's racing secretary said the deadline for stall applications for the 2003 Emerald meet, which will run 92 days from April 19 through Sept. 22, is Feb. 14.

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