10/30/2003 12:00AM

Houston Shuffle is lone winner


PORTLAND, Ore. - Houston Shuffle will be a solid favorite when he faces nine other 2-year-olds in Saturday's $8,000-added OTBA Sales Stakes at six furlongs.

Houston Shuffle is the only winner in the field of lightly raced or unraced runners, and he could scarcely have been more impressive in winning his debut here on opening day. Houston Shuffle, an Oregon-bred son of Houston and Dundoon Shuffle, dueled for the lead before drawing off to defeat maiden special weight foes by seven lengths, covering five furlongs in 1:00.56.

Trainer Jonathan Nance, who owns Houston Shuffle in partnership with Allen Floyd, purchased Houston Shuffle for $3,200 as a weanling from the 2001 Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders Associa-tion sale. Nance said he put Houston Shuffle into training here last March.

"I got him up to working a half-mile and he showed a lot of natural ability, but he was a leggy horse who hadn't grown into himself," Nance said. "I decided to give him the summer off and bring him back in the fall, and I think that was the right decision. He is more mature now, but I really don't think he'll come into his own until next year."

Houston Shuffle will race coupled with Intersection, who is also owned by Nance and Floyd. Intersection, another Oregon-bred by Ihtiman, finished a distant fourth to his entrymate in his only start.

"He can run, too," said Nance. "He has been working head and head with Houston Shuffle for the past couple of months, so I think he can do better than he showed in his debut."