11/03/2006 1:00AM

Blackies Cuttie still improving


PORTLAND, Ore. - The best 2-year-old statebreds in Oregon will be on display in Sunday's twin stakes offerings at six furlongs, the Janet Wineberg for fillies and the Bill Wineberg for colts and geldings. In the case of the Janet Wineberg, at least, that's pretty darn good.

Blackies Cuttie will be the headliner in the Janet Wineberg, and she couldn't have been more impressive in two starts last summer at Emerald Downs. Although trainer Ben Root didn't feel he had her ready for her 5 1/2-furlong debut against $40,000 maidens on

Aug. 13, Blackies Cuttie ran away to win by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:04.20.

Off that performance, the offers began rolling in to owner Larry Faist, who thought he had her sold for $80,000. Root removed her from training while the deal was being finalized, however, and by the time the transaction fell through she had been out of training for more than two weeks. Root feared Blackies Cuttie would be a little short for her second start on

Sept. 30, when she took on allowance rivals at six furlongs, but she turned back a strong bid from Shampoo, a highly regarded daughter of Gulch, and drew away to score by two lengths in 1:09.20.

"She surprised me in both of her races, because I knew she wasn't as fit as she might have been," said Root. "She won very easily, though, and the rider never really turned her loose in either race. We haven't even come close to seeing her best stuff."

Root said he doesn't expect to get to the bottom of Blackies Cuttie on Sunday, either.

"She has only worked a couple of times since we brought her to Portland Meadows, and that was by design," he said. "We don't want her to be at her peak quite yet. We want her to peak for the Futurity."

Blackies Cuttie, a daughter of Cascadian from the Sir Paulus mare Grey Cuttie, is scheduled to take on the boys in the $40,000 Os West Oregon Futurity at a mile on Oregon Championship Day,

Dec. 17. She needs to take care of business in the Janet Wineberg first, however, and it is not a foregone conclusion that she will.

Blackies Cuttie could be tested by stablemate Betcha Ima Bigshot, a daughter of Bagshot who is also undefeated after two starts. Betcha Ima Bigshot, who races for her trainer's mother, Margaret Root, won her debut over $10,000 maidens here Oct. 9, when she scored by 7 1/2 lengths in 1:01.40 for five furlongs. Shipped to Hastings Park for her next start on Oct. 21, she prevailed by 3 1/2 lengths over $15,000 optional claiming company in 1:20 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

"It would be silly to compare her to Blackies Cuttie at this point, because she hasn't met the same kind of company and she hasn't run nearly as fast," said Root. "She has been winning very easily, though, and she is still pretty green. I don't think we've seen the best from her, either."

Ex Mountain Cop eyes Columbia River

Trainer Jonathan Nance has elected to skip the Bill Wineberg with Ex Mountain Cop, who won the six-furlong OTBA Sales Stakes in his last start Oct. 22. The win put Ex Mountain Cop in line to earn a $30,000 bonus if he can complete a double in the Oregon Futurity. Nance said he feels it is more prudent to prep him for the Futurity in the six-furlong Columbia River Stakes on Dec. 4.

"I like the timing for that race better, and I also like the fact that we don't have to pay $4,000 to get into it," said Nance.

Ex Mountain Cop is not eligible for the Bill Wineberg and would have to be supplemented at a cost of $4,000 to run. No such supplemental fee will be needed to run in the Columbia River, which is an open stakes.

"The Columbia River will be a tougher race because it is open to all comers, but that's not our main concern," said Nance. "Our goal is to win the Futurity."

Nance will be represented by impressive debut winner Baquero Ruler in the Bill Wineberg. A half- brother to six-figure earners Lethal Grande and Tomtom Tommalice, Baquero Ruler led throughout to defeat $10,000 maidens by seven lengths, going 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:06.40 on Oct. 15.

"I have always liked Baquero Ruler, but I was surprised he showed so much speed," said Nance. "He came back and worked really well, and he seems to be coming up to this race just right. I'm excited to run him again."

Knightsbridge Road changes mind

It was thought that Knights-bridge Road disliked running at Portland Meadows, where he was winless in five starts despite going off as the heavy favorite in most of those outings.

That thought may need to be revised, however, after Knights-bridge Road defeated the top sprinters on the grounds in a six-furlong allowance race here last Sunday. He ran down multiple stakes winner Crimson Design to prevail by a neck in 1:13.31.

"I didn't think he liked this track either, but I wanted to give him one more chance," said trainer Debbie Van Horne. "I think maybe he beat a group of good horses who weren't as fit as he was, but I'm still very happy with the way he ran. The win should help his confidence, and it makes me confident enough to give him a couple more starts here. He came out of the race well, and now that we know he can handle the track it makes sense to keep going with him."