09/15/2006 12:00AM

Harwood closes in on juvenile win record


AUBURN, Wash. - At the track's inaugural 100-day meeting in 1996, trainer Bud Klokstad amassed a total of 16 wins by his 2-year-olds. That total hasn't been threatened since - or at least it hadn't been threatened until now.

Trainer Doris Harwood scored with three juveniles last week, winning a maiden special weight race with Key to the Vault on Friday, a $12,500 race for winners with Retreat After Me on Saturday, and a maiden special weight race with Liberty for Al on Sunday. The rash of wins brought Harwood's total for 2-year-old scores at the meeting to 12, and it put her in a goal-setting mood.

"I'm going for 17 2-year-old wins," she said. "I still have some maidens left, and I have horses for just about any of the races for winners that might fill and for two of the three stakes left on the schedule. I think I've got a shot at Bud's record."

One of Harwood's best chances will come in the six-furlong $40,000 Diane Kem Stakes for Washington-bred 2-year-old fillies on Sunday's Washington Cup Day program. The trainer will send out the likely favorite in Irene's Bonus Baby, who is coming off a gate-to-wire victory in the $100,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at a mile on Sept. 3.

"She came out of the Shinpoch really well, and I'm not too concerned about cutting her back to six furlongs," said Harwood. "She has natural speed, and she always breaks well. She should be very tough."

Harwood could have run Liberty for Al in the six-furlong $40,000 Captain Condo Stakes, but she opted to run him in last Sunday's six-furlong maiden special weight race instead. He won in 1:09.20, the fastest six-furlong clocking at the meeting.

"I just wanted to do it the right way and let him win a maiden race before I ran him in another stakes," said the trainer. "Besides, I want to run him in the Gottstein Futurity on closing day, and the spacing is better this way. He'll have three weeks between races rather than just two. I'm also planning to run Key to the Vault back in the Futurity, so I'll have two shots in that race."

Harwood began building the foundation for her current success when her 2-year-olds were still yearlings, teaching them to carry a rider at a training center. She then turned them out to grow before putting them into training early this year.

"I like to do things step by step with my 2-year-olds," she said. "There are a lot of short sprints when they first get here, then I gradually stretch them out. I also like to let them train and work together in sets. That reduces the fear factor when they get to the races. If they have been jostling around with four other horses all spring, they are more prepared for a race."

Harwood's program obviously works well, and not only because it produces wins.

"I started out with 20 2-year-olds this spring, and I have only had to turn out one of them," she said. "The rest of them are still sound, and that's the thing I feel best about."

Chinook Pass full of stakes winners

The most competitive event on Washington Cup Day might be the $40,000 Chinook Pass Sprint, which will pit multiple stakes winners Sabertooth, Slewicide Cruise, and Starbird Road against each other at six furlongs. Starbird Road missed a week of training in August with what turned out to be a bruised tendon sheath, but trainer Sharon Ross wasn't inclined to cite that setback as a possible excuse for her stable star.

"He is doing great," she said. "He worked five furlongs in 58.20 on Sunday, and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:10.40. He is coming into this race just right, and six furlongs suits him perfectly."

Ross will also saddle the speedy Free Cocktails for the Chinook Pass. Free Cocktails hasn't raced since July 1, when he defeated allowance rivals with 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.40.

"It's not my fault that he hasn't raced since then," said Ross. "I have been entering him right along, and I even got him in the allowance race that Slewicide Cruise won a couple of weeks ago. Another horse acted up in the gate, though, and Free Cocktails responded by breaking through the gate."

Free Cocktails scuffed up his shins that day and was scratched, but Ross said he emerged none the worse for wear.

"He is fine now, and he should show a lot of speed because he is so fresh," she said. "Starbird Road wants to come from off the pace, so they shouldn't get in each other's way. I'm expecting both of them to run well."