03/18/2005 12:00AM

Fergason may have derby's top two choices

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Jim Fergason already had the likely favorite for the April 2 Oregon Derby in Typhoon Aaron, who is undefeated through four starts. Now he may have the second choice as well.

J D's Date seemed to earn that role with his score in the 1 1/16-mile Preview Stakes last weekend, when he came from well back to catch the front-running American Poet in 1:49.51 under Juan Gutierrez. It was the kind of performance that Fergason expected the first time J D's Date tried two turns, in a one-mile allowance prep on Feb. 28, but he ran a well-beaten third as the even-money favorite.

"I was really puzzled by the way he ran that day, and the only thing I could figure was that he didn't like being down on the rail," Fergason said. "For the Preview, I told Juan not to let him get near the fence, and I guess that is what made the difference. He lost a lot of ground, but he kept running. I really didn't think he'd get there at the quarter pole, but he just kept gaining momentum all the way down the stretch."

J D's Date is a half-brother to Emerald Downs stakes winner Crimson Design by the stoutly bred Taj Alriyadh, and Fergason always had him pegged as a router.

"He is a tall, long-striding horse, and he finished all of his sprint races really well," Fergason said. "I was really surprised he didn't run better the first time he went long, but hopefully we have him figured out now. I think going 1 1/8 miles in the derby should be to his advantage."

American Poet led by three lengths with a furlong to run in the Preview and seemed to be home free, so the fact that he had to settle for second added to what was already a frustrating meeting for trainer Roger Stevenson. It was the trainer's 15th second to just five wins at the stand.

"Everything I send over there runs second, so I don't know why I just didn't key him in second in the trifecta," Stevenson said.

That would have provided considerable consolation. With J D's Date winning the Preview at 14-1, American Poet running second at 10-1, and A Colt Named Sue getting third at 11-1. The $2 trifecta paid $5,278.40.

Convincing sprint winner points to derby

Another Oregon Derby hopeful emerged from an unlikely spot in last Saturday's first race, a $10,000 maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs. When Indian Colony won that race by 9 1/4 lengths in just his second start, owner and trainer Eric Jensen began making plans for April 2.

"It's asking a lot for any horse to stretch out from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, but I'm going to give him a chance," Jensen said. "I'll give him a mile work and a six-furlong work, then I'll see where he stands. If he still looks good to me, I'll try him in the derby."

Indian Colony is a big, strapping colt by Cherokee Colony out of Relevant, by Hold Your Peace.

"Cherokee Colony was the first Grade 1 winner by Pleasant Colony, and he tends to get a lot of route horses," Jensen said. "I have felt Indian Colony was a router from the first time I put him into training, and I'm anxious to see what he can do around two turns."

Another daylight win - but different plans

Saturday's second race, a maiden special weight affair for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs, looked like a carbon copy of the first. Making the first start of his career, Flash Theodore went to the start and never looked back en route to matching Indian Colony's 9 1/4-length margin of victory.

Flash Theodore, a 4-year-old son of Danjur who races for trainer G.D. Khalsa, probably won't be seen again at this meeting.

"The timing wasn't right to run him back in the Governor's Speed Handicap, and I'm not ready to stretch him out quite yet, so it makes sense to save him for Emerald Downs," Khalsa said. "The purses are so much bigger up there, I hate to run through his conditions here."

Oakhurst shows off Seattle Shamus

Last Saturday's open house at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Newberg drew a crowd of 335 horsemen from California to British Columbia, said Cookie Root, who operates the farm with her husband, Dr. Jack Root. The Roots were showing off their newest stallion acquisition, a speedy son of Seattle Slew named Seattle Shamus, but all 10 of their stallions were on display.

"Seattle Shamus was the big draw, and people seemed to like him a lot," Cookie Root said. "Neil French, who trained him in California, was there to answer questions about him, and Mickey and Karen Taylor, who owned Seattle Slew, were also there."

Root said the surprise hit of the show was Klinsman, a son of Danehill who won four of 17 starts and $150,311 before retiring to stud in 2002. His first foals are now 2-year-olds.

"He's not the best-looking stallion we have, but he is very athletic, and that appealed to the trainers," Root said. "More than one trainer told me he would be our sleeper."