11/05/2003 12:00AM

Houston Shuffle's trainer charts path to bonus


PORTLAND, Ore. - It's one down and one to go for Houston Shuffle, who will earn a $25,000 bonus if he can follow his easy win in last Saturday's six-furlong OTBA Sales Stakes with a score in the one-mile Oregon Futurity on Dec. 13.

Trainer Jonathan Nance, who owns Houston Shuffle in partnership with Allen Floyd, has had the bonus in the back of his mind since the gelding won his debut here on opening day by a resounding seven lengths. When he came back to win the $8,000 Sales Stakes like a 1-5 shot should, drawing off to score by nearly four lengths under Juan Gutierrez in 1:14.47, the bonus moved to the forefront of the trainer's thoughts.

"The Futurity has to be our goal now, and the big question is how to bring him up to that race," said Nance. "He raced two weeks ago, and the Bill Wineberg Stakes is in two weeks. The Futurity is two weeks after that, and if we try to make every stop it might be asking too much."

Nance said his inclination is to skip the six-furlong Wineberg and bring Houston Shuffle up to the $28,345-added Oregon Futurity on works, but he left himself some wiggle room.

"I'll see how he came out of this race before I make my final decision," he said. "If this race didn't take anything out of him, I might have to reconsider."

Nance and Floyd purchased Houston Shuffle, a leggy son of Houston and Dundoon Shuffle, by Doonesbury, as a weanling at the 2001 OTBA Sale for $3,200. For the past several years the OTBA has offered a bonus to any horse who can win both the OTBA Sales Stakes, which is restricted to sales graduates, and the Oregon Futurity. The bonus is funded through a silent auction of stallion shares on Oregon-bred Day, which is Dec. 13 this year. The bonus was originally $10,000, but it has grown to $25,000 because no horse has been able to complete the difficult double.

Tom Won to take shot at Futurity

Houston Shuffle's main competition for the Oregon Futurity may have emerged earlier on Saturday's program, when Tom Won scored an impressive 4 3/4-length victory over 2-year-old maiden special weight company in his second career start.

Tom Won, a half-brother to multiple route stakes winners Cyamaria and Yess, by Wood Memorial winner Cahill Road, finished a distant second to Houston Shuffle after being slow into stride in his five-furlong debut. He showed more early foot going 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:07.85 on Saturday, but owner and trainer Delmer Webb believes he won't show his best stuff until he tries two turns.

"He is a big horse with a long stride, and he doesn't have a lot of quickness," said Webb. "Both Cyamaria and Yess were better going long, and I'll be surprised if it isn't the same with him."

Webb said he plans to run Tom Won in the Bill Wineberg and then the Oregon Futurity.

Cpr First Choice captures Evergreen

Saturday's other stakes, the $28,155 Evergreen Futurity for 2-year-old Quarter Horses at 400 yards, saw 12-1 shot Cpr First Choice post a 1 1/2-length upset over stablemate Cpr First Watch in 20.91 seconds. Dash of Irish Cream, who was favored at 2-5, hopped at the start and never recovered, finishing fifth of eight.

Cpr First Choice, one of two fillies in the field, and Cpr First Watch were both saddled by trainer Margie Cantrell. Edward Steenkolk, who bred both horses, still owns the winner.

"She is bred to be a nice horse," Steenkolk said. "She is a full sister to Cpr First Class, who has won three stakes."

Many Northwest Quarter Horses have names beginning with BCR, which stands for Billingsley Creek Ranch in Idaho. First Down Cash, the sire of Cpr First Choice, stands at Steenkolk's place near Toledo, Ore., so is "Cpr" a reference to that ranch?

"No, it stands for 'cardiopulmonary resuscitation,' which is what I might need some day after watching my horses run," he said.

Steenkolk said Cpr First Choice will come back in the Nov. 15 trials for the Oregon-bred Quarter Horse Futurity, which will be run at 400 yards on Nov. 29.

Monday saw meet's highest handle

Monday's nine-race card handled a meeting-high $333,404, thanks to a record $284,372 in wagering from out of state. Through the first eight days of the meeting, the daily average handle stands at $165,804, which is up 64 percent from last season.

Virtually all of the gain has come from increased sales of the track's signal, and the comparison with last season includes a card that was canceled after four races, resulting in a handle of only $44,747.