08/07/2008 11:00PM

Enumerator, Burgundy Road give race clout

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AUBURN, Wash. - Sunday's Strong Ruler Stakes, like the Knights Choice Stakes on Saturday, is a highly restricted affair. To be eligible, a horse must be nominated to the Northwest Race Series. He must also be by a stallion whose progeny were made eligible with a payment in the year of his birth.

Because it is doubly restricted, the Strong Ruler is in some years almost irrelevant to the open 2-year-old division at Emerald Downs. This, however, doesn't appear to be one of those years.

That's because at least a couple of the Strong Ruler entrants seem capable of contending with any 2-year-old on the grounds. One is Enumerator, who went off as the favorite in the open Premio Esmeralda Stakes at six furlongs on July 19. Enumerator, a homebred son of He's Tops who races for Herman Sarkowsky, was bet down to 2-1 on the strength of his impressive 4 1/4-length debut win over $40,000 maidens in May. Unfortunately, he broke a step slowly from the rail post, ate a lot of dirt, and came home sixth.

Asked if Enumerator got anything out of that race, trainer Doris Harwood had a ready answer.

"Well, he got scared," she said. "He brushed up against the rail at the five-sixteenths pole and that seemed to bother him the most. We had blinkers on him, and it seemed to scare him that he felt something touching him that he couldn't see. I'll take the blinkers off for this race so he can see more."

Despite Enumerator's subpar effort in the Premio Esmeralda, Harwood said she still thinks highly of him.

"I have liked him since he was a baby, because he has a beautiful way of going," she said. "I think he showed that he can run in his first race, and I can excuse the way he ran in the stakes. It was a learning experience. There was no harm done, and I expect him to come back and run the way I know he can run on Sunday."

Burgundy Road's maiden win a beaut

Enumerator may have to take a back seat in the Strong Ruler wagering to Burgundy Road, who made a lasting impression when winning his debut in maiden special weight company on July 13. Burgundy Road, a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Margo's Gift by Cahill Road, bided his time in fourth position early, then took command with a quick burst of speed at the top of the stretch and drew out to score by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:04 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

Though Burgundy Road went off at almost 6-1 that day, his performance was no surprise to trainer Ben Root.

"I've felt all along that he is the best horse I have trained, and I still think that," said Root. "His first race validated my thinking about him, and he came out of it better than he went into it. This horse has shown a lot of ability from day one, and he is smart and willing. He looks like a horse should look, too. I'm pretty excited about him."

Root said owner Dave Martin picked Burgundy Road out of last summer's WTBA yearling sale, though he didn't actually buy him until after the sale was over.

"The horse was an RNA at $19,000, but Dave talked to the consignor after the sale and bought him for $20,000," Root said.

Martin, a Seattle attorney and the brother of the late Ted Martin, whose career included stints as racing secretary or general manager of numerous Northwest tracks, has invested significantly in young Thoroughbreds in recent years. Root hopes Burgundy Road will reward the owner's investment in the sport.

"Dave loves the game, and he has been a big supporter of the industry," said Root. "He has been a loyal supporter of my program, too, and I'd love to win some big races for him. Burgundy Road might be the horse who can win them."

Harbro is retired

Trainer Vince Gibson said that Harbro, who has made more starts at Emerald Downs than any other horse, has been retired and will live out his days at the trainer's farm in Kent, Wash.

Harbro, 10, made 80 starts at Emerald, all but one under the colors of owner Lorna Brown. He won eight races and placed in 22 more, earning $55,083. He never raced at another track.

* Portland Meadows track announcer Jason Beem, who filled in ably for an ailing Robert Geller earlier in this meet, has taken on expanded duties at the Oregon track. As of this week, Beem is the manager of guest services and media relations, as well as the track announcer. Portland Meadows has not yet been granted dates for its 2008-09 meet, but it hopes to launch the stand on Oct. 5.