09/04/2007 12:00AM

Gottstein looking like best of both worlds

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AUBURN, Wash. - Last weekend's stakes action set the stage for what promises to be a dandy battle of the sexes in the $100,000 Gottstein Futurity, which will be contested at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 29.

Heading the male contingent will be the Jim Penney-trained duo of Gallon and Cafe Tortoni, who rose to the top of their division by finishing one-two in Saturday's $55,000 WTBA Lads Stakes at a mile. Representing the females will be Smarty Deb, who stands alone atop the 2-year-old filly set after posting another smashing win in Sunday's $100,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at a mile.

Gallon, a strapping son of Victory Gallop who had been disqualified from an apparent win over Margo's Gift in the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda, was hammered down to 3-5 in the Lads. He was all out to prevail over his pace-setting stablemate in 1:37.20, and many felt Cafe Tortoni may have run the better race. Consider that Cafe Tortoni, a son of Katahaula County who had raced only once before, was stretching out a full three furlongs off his debut win over $30,000 maidens. He figured to be a short horse, and he was, tiring noticeably through the final sixteenth, but he fought back determinedly when headed by Gallon and was beaten only a neck.

"We were very proud of Cafe Tortoni's effort," said Penney. "He was at a disadvantage because he had only raced once before, but he ran very gamely. He gives us a second live horse for the Gottstein."

Penney was by no means ready to concede that Cafe Tortoni has a better shot in the Gottstein than Gallon, however.

"To me, Gallon is a horse who is apt to win a lot of races by half a length," said the trainer. "He will do what it takes to win, but not much more. He is only going to get better with distance, too. We have felt all along that he would be better the farther he goes. With distance, he can settle and use that long stride to his advantage."

In losing the Lads, his fourth start, Margo's Gift tasted defeat for the first time, but it was hardly a fair fight. Margo's Gift, a son of Polish Gift from the barn of trainer Doris Harwood, grabbed a quarter coming out of the gate and was pulled up by jockey Ricky Frazier before going a half-mile.

"Grabbing a quarter," or clipping a front hoof with a back one, can result in the loss of part of a hoof. That was not the case with Margo's Gift.

"We got lucky," Harwood reported. "He just has a little abrasion, that's all. Ricky did the prudent thing by pulling him up. It was probably stinging a little, and Ricky noticed that something was wrong. It isn't anything that will cause him to miss training, though. He should be ready for the Gottstein.

Margo's Gift will give Harwood a second horse for the Gottstein. If there were any doubt that Smarty Deb deserves top billing, she erased it by winning the Barbara Shinpoch by 5 3/4 lengths over stablemate Princess Hiawatha in 1:36.20, a full second faster than the winning time for the Lads, while remaining undefeated after three starts.

She might have run even better. Smarty Deb, a homebred daughter of Smart Strike who races for Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms, broke a step slowly and raced a little greenly. She drifted out a bit turning for home before being geared down by rider Ricky Frazier through the final furlong.

"She could have run 10 lengths faster," said Frazier.

Harwood and Paxton had already been leaning toward running Smarty Deb against the boys in the Gottstein. Her Barbara Shinpoch performance sealed the deal.

"The boss and I want to go for it," said Harwood. "We wanted her to run impressively in this race, and she did."

And if she runs impressively in the Gottstein as well?

"We've got dreams," she said. "She is a wonderful filly. We think she could run anywhere in the country."

Smarty Deb's Barbara Shinpoch victory gave Harwood nine stakes wins at the meet, which broke a record she shared with Bud Klokstad and Steve Bullock. Seven of those wins came with horses owned by Paxton, who has the record for stakes wins at a single Emerald Downs meeting for an owner.

Big plans for Mulcahy

Trainer Howard Belvoir has mapped out an ambitious fall schedule for Mulcahy, who posted his second straight stakes win in Monday's $100,000 Emerald Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

Belvoir said that Mulcahy, a stretch-running son of Tribunal, will be nominated for both the $45,000 Trooper Seven Stakes for 3-year-old statebreds at a mile on Washington Cup Day, Sept. 16, and the $250,000 B.C. Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 23. After running in one of those races, Mulcahy will head south for a California campaign.

"He is just coming into his own now, so we might as well go on with him," said Belvoir. "He has developed so much this year. We gelded him in April, and he has improved every race since then. I really think he has more to give. He is going to be better than he has shown so far."

If Mulcahy goes in the B.C. Derby, he will be attempting to become the first horse to win both Northwest derbies since Irish Bear turned the trick for trainer Jim Penney in 1987. Jellystone Park (1992), Makors Mark (2000) and Flamethrowintexan (2004) invaded from Washington to win the B.C. Derby, but they had not won the local derby. You've Got Action (1997), Roscoe Pito (2003), and Alexandersrun (2005) shipped in from Hastings to win the Emerald Derby, but none could complete the sweep with a win in the B.C. Derby.