02/05/2004 12:00AM

For Flying Algonquin, home at last

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Flying Algonquin, a Thoroughbred who attracted nationwide attention when he was found on a country road without a home or owner, was sold for $1,375 at a livestock auction Tuesday in Marysville, Wash.

Flying Algonquin, a B.C.-bred who won one of five starts at Hastings Park from 2000 to 2002, created a stir after he was found grazing by the side of a road near Lake Stevens, Wash., shortly before Christmas. Animal control authorities prevailed on Steve and Erin Porter to board Flying Algonquin at their nearby farm until the owner came forward, but the owner never did.

That was curious, because Flying Algonquin was meticulously groomed, with a clipped coat and trimmed feet, and he wore a halter with a brass nameplate bearing the nickname "Stretch." He also had a lip tattoo, which Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association general manager Ralph Vacca used to track down Flying Algonquin's name and the names of his original breeders and owners.

Unfortunately, Flying Algonquin had changed hands several times after his racing career ended, and Vacca was unable to locate the current owner. The mystery drew extraordinary attention to Flying Algonquin, who was the subject of numerous news stories across the nation. Animal lovers worried that Flying Algonquin would end up at a slaughterhouse.

That was never likely to happen, though, and it didn't. The 4-H clubs of King and Snohomish counties raised $1,200 to help the Porters keep Flying Algonquin, and the Porters, who had grown fond of their charge, added the additional $175 needed to make the winning bid Tuesday.

Steve Porter reported that Flying Algonquin will live out the rest of his life in leisure, grazing in a pasture at his farm.

Stakes winners vie for Ms.

Saturday's Ms. Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs has drawn one of the meeting's most intriguing casts, as stakes winners Kya Jo, Quiz the Maid, and Belle Fourche head a list of 12 nominations.

Of the three stakes winners, only Kya Jo is coming off a win, however, and trainer Jonathan Nance didn't sound sanguine about her chances.

"I don't really think she is a sprinter," said Nance. "She won the Stallion Stakes at six furlongs, but she only beat three, and I didn't think she was real impressive. I think I trained her too hard for that race and she came up a little flat. I tried to learn from that and I backed off her training for this race, but I really don't think she'll be at her best until she goes long."

Quiz the Maid looked sharp when she won the six-furlong Lassie Stakes here in November, but trainer Jim Fergason feared she wouldn't have another opportunity to race here and sent her to Golden Gate. Quiz the Maid raced only once there, finishing sixth and last against $16,000 claimers at six furlongs Dec. 31.

"She landed in a tough spot and she couldn't keep up," Fergason said. "It didn't turn out the way I hoped, but at least I got a race into her. When she got back here she worked better than she had ever worked before, so maybe it will all work out for the best."

Belle Fourche led throughout the six-furlong Jane Driggers Debutante here on Oregon-bred day, Dec. 13, but when she came back as the 4-5 favorite in a six-furlong allowance Jan. 26, she finished sixth, beaten 11 lengths by Ms Lady Palace.

"I can't really explain it," said trainer Ben Root. "She wasn't tired after the race and she didn't get hurt. Maybe she just didn't like the pressure that Ms Lady Palace put on her from the outside."

Root said he will try something different for the Ms.

"I'm putting blinkers on her for this race, and maybe that will help her focus more," he said. "That's all I can think of to do. I really thought she had things figured out after the stakes wins, but these fillies will fool you. That's why we have to run the races."

Horses begin training

Emerald Downs opened for training last weekend, with about 200 horses shipping in to prepare for the 89-day 2004 meeting that will run from April 16 to Sept. 20. Racing will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule for the first four weeks, then will shift to a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule May 13.

Paul Ryneveldt, the track's new director of racing, expects to have approximately 1,300 horses on the grounds before opening day.