11/27/2003 12:00AM

Houston Shuffle sits one out, so Tom Won catches a break


PORTLAND, Ore. - With Houston Shuffle away, will it be Tom Won's turn to play in Saturday's six furlong Columbia River Stakes for 2-year-olds?

Houston Shuffle, the undisputed local divisional leader with three wins in as many starts, is sitting out the Columbia River in order to come into the Dec. 13 Oregon Futurity as a fresh horse.

Tom Won, an oversized son of Cahill Road, would certainly seem to be next in the pecking order. He finished a distant second to Houston Shuffle in a five-furlong maiden race on Oct. 18 before defeating maiden special weight company at 5 1/2 furlongs in his second try. Then he closed strongly to be beaten just over a length by Houston Shuffle last time out, in the six-furlong Bill Wineberg Stakes.

"He seems to be getting a little better with every race," said trainer Delmer Webb. "Part of that is that he has gotten to go farther with each race. I really don't think we'll see his best stuff until he goes around two turns. He is such a big horse, it takes him a while to get rolling."

Tom Won, a half-brother to multiple route stakes winners Cyamaria and Yesss, has been measured at 17 hands, 2 inches, according to the trainer's son, Ben Webb.

"I can't vouch for that," said the trainer. "But I can tell you that when I saddle him, I can't see over the top of him."

Webb likes Tom Won's chances on Saturday, but he would be more confident if it weren't for the presence of another horse from his barn. Webb also trains Runaway Briartic, who dispatched $12,500 maiden runners by nine lengths in his debut here on Oct. 25. His clocking of 59.76 seconds for the five furlongs was easily the fastest of the meeting by a 2-year-old.

"He was very impressive," said the trainer. "It was no contest, really, but it was also just a $12,500 race and I'm not sure what he beat. I've been trying to run him back, but the races haven't filled for him. I'm kind of excited about running him on Friday, just to see how good he is. I think he will be the speed of the race, so it is just a question of how far he can go."

Mythical Road: Real potential

Both of the Webb trainees might have a tough time with Mythical Road, who won his last two outings at Emerald Downs before finishing third, just a nose behind Tom Won, in the Nov. 15 Bill Wineberg.

"I thought he ran great that day, because he hadn't been out in almost two months," said trainer Dick Occhiuto. "He was right up near the pace the whole way, and he had a license to get a little tired. Now it's his turn to be the fit horse, and he should be tough to beat."

Mythical Road, a son of Cisco Road and Joy's Best, who won the Donna Jensen Handicap here in 1994, was bred and raised by the trainer's wife, Debra Occhiuto. The couple sold a half-interest in him to Lois Vogt before he began his racing career but after he had shown ability in his training.

"I've always liked him, and I think now that he might be the best 2-year-old I've ever had," said Occhiuto. "Others maybe had as much talent, or even more, but they didn't have his mind. He acts like a 10-year-old out there. He never does anything wrong.

"He might get beat, but he won't beat himself. He is just a very professional race horse."

Dates hearing on Thursday

The Washington Horse Racing Commission has scheduled its annual meeting to award racing dates for Thursday, Dec. 4, at 10:30 a.m. at the Peppertree Auburn Inn, located at 401 8th Street in Auburn.

Emerald Downs has requested an 89-day 2004 meeting that would stretch from April 16 through Sept. 20. The track plans to race three days per week for the first four weeks of the meeting, then hold four days of racing a week for the remainder of the stand.

Last season Emerald raced 92 days from April 19 through Sept. 22, though two days of racing were cut short by unsafe track conditions.