12/09/2004 12:00AM

Eighty Eighty goes for bonus

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PORTLAND, Ore. - The Os West Oregon Futurity tops a slate of four stakes at Portland Meadows on Saturday, when the track hosts Oregon Championship Day for the 13th time.

With a purse of $41,780 added, the one-mile Futurity is the richest stakes on the Portland Meadows schedule. It will offer an even bigger payday if Eighty Eighty should win.

Eighty Eighty, a son of Baquero who races for owner Sheila Marquart, is eligible to collect a $25,000 bonus, as well as the winner's share of the Futurity purse, by virtue of his 9 1/2-length victory over Cascadiansasquatch in the six-furlong OTBA Sales Stakes on Oct. 30. The Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders Association has for the last several years offered the bonus, funded through an annual stallion season auction, to any horse who wins both the Sales Stakes and the Futurity. The bonus has never been collected, but trainer Ben Root feels Eighty Eighty has a legitimate chance to earn it on Saturday.

"I have felt all along that he would be at his best around two turns, and this will be his first opportunity to go long," said Root. "He has been training really well, and the race doesn't seem to be coming up quite as tough as it has in some years."

The race would undoubtedly be easier if Root weren't sending out three other horses in the Futurity. In addition to Eighty Eighty, he will saddle Wall St. Kid, A Colt Named Sue, and Miss Bliss, runner-up in the Janet Wineberg Stakes. It is entirely possible that Eighty Eighty will be denied the bonus by a stablemate.

"If that's what happens, so be it," said Root. "They all race for different owners, and each of the owners wants to win. Each horse stands alone. I'll try to give each of them their best chance to win. That's the only way I can handle it."

Root has entered 12 horses on the Oregon Championship Day card, including 10 in the four stakes. Several race for his parents, Jack and Cookie Root, and most are by one of the stallions who stand at his parents' farm in Newberg, Oakhurst Thoroughbreds.

"Our whole program is geared to the success of young Oregon-breds, and Oregon-bred Day is their biggest opportunity to succeed," said the trainer. "This day is important to our industry, it is important to people who breed and race in Oregon, and it is important to me."