01/18/2002 1:00AM

Fit to Bet fit to go long, but will have to sprint

Email

PORTLAND, Ore. - Sunday's Beaver State Stakes at Portland Meadows will match OTBA Stallion Stakes winner Ransome Road and Oregon Futurity hero Fit to Bet, but it won't exactly match the two stakes winners on equal terms.

Trainer L.A. "Hammy" Williams, who sent out Ransome Road, a Cisco Road gelding, to his front-running score in the six-furlong Stallion Stakes on Jan. 5, is more than eager to run him back in the 5 1/2-furlong Beaver State. But Jack Root, who owns Fit to Bet in partnership with his son Brad and his wife, trainer Cookie Root, is decidedly reluctant.

"We stretched him out to a mile for the Futurity, and we really didn't want to shorten him up again," said Root. "The problem is that the Futurity was run on Dec. 15 and there hasn't been another route race for him. There isn't another route stakes until the McFadden Memorial on March 3, in fact, so if we want to run him at all it looks like we'll have to sprint him."

In his racing debut, Fit to Bet ran fourth at five furlongs to Ransome Road's first, then finished fourth to Ransome Road's second in the six-furlong Bill Wineberg before waking up with a powerful 8 1/2-length victory from far off the pace in the Futurity. Ransome Road finished a distant seventh in the Futurity, so it is little wonder that Fit to Bet's connections would far rather have Sunday's rematch take place around two turns. Despite the abbreviated distance, however, Root isn't ready to concede the race.

"What we're hoping is that the lights simply came on for him in the Futurity, and that from now on he'll run better at any distance," said Root.

"Fit to Bet is a big, Quarter Horsey-looking colt, and he is very fast in the mornings. When you see him work, it's hard to believe he's not a sprinter. That's the reason we're willing to give him a shot on Sunday, though I'm still a little skeptical about his chances of winning at 5 1/2 furlongs."

A factor in Fit to Bet's favor is that there is plenty of other speed to prevent Ransome Road from grabbing an easy lead in the Beaver State. Ransome Road will need to outrun Beat the Klok, who showed the way in five of six starts at Emerald Downs last summer; Roux Then Gumbo, who is coming off a showy 10 3/4-length maiden win; and the undefeated filly Shoppers Shuttle.

Trainer Cliff Balcom would doubtless rather have run Shoppers Shuttle, who has led throughout in both career outings, against her own kind in a scheduled allowance race that didn't fill for Saturday's card, but he isn't afraid to match her against the boys.

"I really don't know how good she is yet, because she went to the lead under a pull and won easily in both of her races," said the trainer. "My guess is that she probably doesn't need the lead, but we probably won't find out for a while. I think she can get the lead whenever she wants it."

Homecoming for champion

Weinhard, who was named the champion Oregon-bred older male for 2000, may finally get a chance to run in his home state. A 6-year-old son of Falstaff who has won nearly $150,000 from five wins in 41 starts in Southern California, Weinhard was claimed by local owner Mike Pollowitz out of a winning effort against $16,000 sprinters last Saturday at Santa Anita. Pollowitz intends to race Weinhard with northern California trainer Brent Sumja until March, then send him to Portland Meadows trainer Steve Fisher for the six-furlong Governor's Speed Handicap on March 31 and the $30,000-added Portland Meadows Mile on April 28.

"Mike has had his eye on the horse for a long time, and when Weinhard was entered for $16,000 he felt the price was right," Fisher reported. "He is still eligible for the nonwinners of $3,000 other than maiden or claiming condition at Golden Gate, so the hope is that he can win that race before he ships up here."