12/16/2004 1:00AM

Gutierrez out two weeks for elective knee surgery

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Defending riding champion Juan Gutierrez escaped serious injury when his mount in last Saturday's second race fell on the far turn, but he will be sidelined for at least two weeks.

Gutierrez's agent, Keith Drebin, said that the rider was to undergo arthroscopic surgery to correct a pre-existing problem in his knee on Thursday.

"He has been putting off the knee surgery, but it seemed like the right time to do it after the spill," Drebin said. "He was awfully sore, and it would have been hard for him to ride this weekend anyway."

Gutierrez took off the rest of his mounts last Saturday and did not ride Monday as a result of the spill. His mount in Saturday's second race, Rainbow Swirl, suffered a ruptured artery during the running of the race and fell, dying almost instantly.

At the time of the accident, Gutierrez was second in the Thoroughbred rider standings at the meet with 25 wins, behind only Debbie Hoonan, who has 29 but will miss the rest of the meet because of a fractured collarbone suffered in a spill here on Dec. 3.

The absence of Gutierrez and Hoonan leave a vacuum in the jockey colony, but Felipe Valdez figures to help fill the void. Valdez arrived here Dec. 10 from Turf Paradise and accepted 17 mounts on his first three cards, winning Saturday's Oregon Hers Stakes aboard Americas Pride and a maiden special weight race Monday on Ahnold.

Valdez last rode here at the 46-day meeting in 2001-02, and made a lasting impression. He tied Joe Crispin's Portland Meadows record by riding seven winners on a single program, and he ended the meet as the leading rider with 66 wins.

Valdez plans to ride here through the end of the meeting on April 24. Drebin is handling his book.

Fergason anticipates next big day

Trainer Jim Fergason enjoyed a big day last Saturday when he saddled Wice O Kat to win the $41,780 Os West Oregon Futurity. He could have another on Dec. 26, when he sends out the heavy favorite in one stakes and as many as four contenders in another.

Fergason confirmed that he will send out Quiz the Maid in quest of her fourth straight win over older fillies and mares in the $10,000 City of Roses Handicap at a mile. He also plans to run Wice O Kat, Typhoon Aaron, Tomorrow's Turn and Slightly Danjurous in the $20,000 Juvenile Mile for 2-year-olds.

The Juvenile Mile is new this year, designed to provide an opportunity for non-Oregon-bred 2-year-olds to earn stakes money around two turns. The race is the idea of owner William Kosterman, who agreed to supplement the purse to the tune of $50,000 over five years.

Kosterman has a good chance to win back some of that money, as his colt Tomorrow's Turn figures to go off as the favorite in the inaugural Juvenile. Tomorrow's Turn, a homebred son of Tommorrow's Slew, won his maiden in the summer at Emerald Downs, where he also ran third to Seattles Best Joe in the Captain Condo Stakes. He was freshened for two months, then ran second, beaten a head by Typhoon Aaron, in the six-furlong Columbia River Stakes here on Nov. 27.

"I was surprised Typhoon Aaron beat him that day, and I don't think he would have beat him if Tomorrow's Turn hadn't gotten into trouble," said Fergason. "He really came running at the end, and I'm looking forward to running him around two turns."

Eighty Eighty injured

Eighty Eighty, who was scratched from last Saturday's Oregon Futurity, has a stress fracture in his cannon bone. The untimely injury cost him a shot at a $25,000 bonus available to any horse who swept the OTBA Sales Stakes and the Futurity, but it won't cost him a great deal of his 3-year-old season.

Eighty Eighty is trained by Ben Root for owner Sheila Marquart. Root 's father, Dr. Jack Root, said Eighty Eighty should be able to return to training in six to eight weeks.

"That's the prognosis for a young horse with this kind of injury provided the horse gets to exercise," said Dr. Root. "When I graduated from veterinary school the treatment was stall rest, but now we know that a stress fracture, as opposed to a joint fracture, heals much faster with exercise."

Schedule changes

The Oregon Racing Commission has approved a request from Portland Meadows to alter its racing schedule for the 2005 portion of its current meeting. The track plans to drop Friday night racing and add Sunday racing. Racing will be conducted on a Saturday-Sunday-Monday basis, with first post at 1:05 p.m., through April 11. For the final two weeks of the 80-day meet, racing will be on only Saturdays and Sundays.

In a letter to the ORC requesting the change, general manager Chris Dragone said the track intends to stimulate wagering on live racing and to increase wagering on simulcast imports.