12/15/2004 12:00AM

Gamble with Wice O Kat pays off

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Jim Fergason took a gamble when he entered Mr. and Mrs. Bill Johnson's homebred Katowice filly, Wice O Kat, in Saturday's Os West Oregon Futurity at a mile.

Wice O Kat, who was still a maiden after two starts, looked very tough if entered against females in the $10,000 Jane Driggers Debutante on the same Oregon Championship Day card, but she was only the third choice behind Cascadiansasquatch and Abtastic in the $41,780 Futurity.

But the gamble paid off, barely.

Under a strong ride by Twyla Beckner, Wice O Kat stalked the pace of Cascadiansasquatch and rider Shawna Barber from between horses, moved with Abtastic to duel for the lead through the stretch, and dug in through the final yards to hold off the late charge of A Colt Named Sue by a nose. It was merely another head back to Abtastic, who was making the second start of his career. The time for the mile on a wet-fast track was 1:41.83.

"I was afraid I didn't have her fit enough," Fergason said after. "She came out of her last race with an abscess in her foot, and she missed about two weeks of training."

Wice O Kat made up for any conditioning edge she might have conceded with heart, according her rider.

"She got really tired near the end, but she wouldn't give up," Beckner said. "She wanted it so bad, she just wasn't going to let anybody by. She is one tough filly."

Now that Wice O Kat has proven herself against male competition, she might be asked for an encore. Fergason said she will be pointed for another meeting with males in the one-mile, $20,000 Juvenile Stakes on Dec. 26.

Root's championship day had ups and downs

Trainer Ben Root got two tough breaks in the Futurity. First, he had to scratch Eighty Eighty, who was eligible for a $25,000 bonus by virtue of his win in the OTBA Sales Stakes, when the horse turned up lame on race day. Then he watched A Colt Named Sue, whom he trains for his mother, Cookie Root, lose that close decision to Wice O Kat.

It wasn't all disappointment for the Roots on Oregon Championship Day, however. Mother and son combined to win the $10,000 Oregon Hers for 3-year-old fillies at a mile with Americas Pride, whom they had claimed for $8,000 in August at Emerald Downs. Less than a half-hour later, they won the $10,000 Oregon His for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles with Might E Man, who had not raced since April.

Americas Pride won on the day she was claimed and came back to run third in $16,000 competition at Emerald. But she had run a disappointing fifth in her first race at this meeting, in the Oregon HBPA Invitational Handicap on Nov. 26. She bounced back with a 7 1/2-length victory under Felipe Valdez on Saturday, covering the mile in 1:39.69.

"She ran the way we hoped she could when we claimed her," Ben Root said. "I was baffled when she ran so poorly in her first start here, but looking back on it I think she just wasn't ready. I trained her harder for this race, and she really responded. She made it look scary easy."

Root gave much of the credit for Might E Man's 1 3/4-length win over Booty Treasure in the His to his father, Dr. Jack Root.

"My dad designed the program to get Might E Man ready for this race," he said. "It's not easy to win a stakes at 1 1/16 miles off that kind of layoff, but he was fit. He is a gutsy horse, too, and he got the kind of ride he needs. He tends to lose interest if he gets to the front too early."

Rider Brian Theriot reserved Mighty E Man off the pace until the final furlong, then surged to the front to score in 1:47.19.

Short rest no problem for One Tuft Woeman

Root also saddled the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers in the Jane Driggers Debutante, but the victory went to One Tuft Woeman, who remained undefeated, after two starts.

One Tuft Woeman, a homebred daughter of Danjur who races for Stephen and Angeline Rubin, caught the pacesetting Gordys Sweet Jordy at the sixteenth marker and drew out to score by nearly a length in 1:13.29 for six furlongs under Tim Neal.

"I was concerned that she was coming back in two weeks after her maiden win, but she was good enough to win anyway," said trainer Nick Lowe. "I think she is a really nice filly, and very tough. I think she'll run even better when I have more time to prepare her for a race."

The first four finishers in the Debutante were by Danjur or Baquero, both of whom stand at Jack and Cookie Root's Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Newberg, Ore. Baquero was also represented by Hers winner Americas Pride, His winner Might E Man, and Futurity runner-up A Colt Named Sue.