12/14/2007 12:00AM

Jimbos Fire Ant took Radke for wild ride

EmailPORTLAND, Ore. - There are certain kinds of trouble that horses can rarely overcome, so when a horse does overcome trouble of that sort you have to sit up and take notice.

With that in mind, Jimbos Fire Ant must have been tons the best in last Sunday's $40,000 Os West Oregon Futurity at Portland Meadows. When was the last time you saw a front-runner appear to break down on the far turn, allowing rivals to pass her on the inside, then suddenly regain her stride to win going away by an easy three lengths?

That was what Jimbos Fire Ant did in the Futurity, or at least that was how it looked from the stands. It looked only slightly different from Kevin Radke's vantage point in the saddle.

"She was cruising along in complete control, then she looked into the infield and pricked her ears," said the rider. "I don't know what she saw, but whatever it was made her stop in her tracks and veer to the outside. Before I had time to react, she saw those horses passing her on the inside and she got back to business. I've never seen anything quite like it."

Extraordinary as her performance was in the Futurity, the filly's antics were distressingly familiar to her connections.

"She does that all the time in the morning," said Dr. Jack Root, the husband of trainer Cookie Root. "It's hard to get her around the track without a pony or a workmate. She is a goofy little thing on the track, and she is rotten in her stall. It's a good thing she can run."

Jimbos Fire Ant's victory in the one-mile Futurity capped a fruitful Oregon Championship Day for Cookie Root, as she also won the six-furlong Jane Driggers Debutante for 2-year-old fillies with Ochoco Flame. Too bad she wasn't around to enjoy it.

"She went to her stepfather's 90th birthday celebration," Jack Root said. "She was torn. She really wanted to be here. But family comes first with Cookie."

Nance takes two - and nearly a third

Trainer Jonathan Nance also won two stakes on the Oregon Championship Day program, saddling Hunt for Glory to upset Brave Hearted in the six-furlong Lethal Grande Oregon Sprint Championship and Baquero Ruler to win the 1 1/16-mile Oregon His by 5 1/2 lengths. It was the first stakes win for both runners.

"I was especially happy to see Hunt for Glory win a stakes," said Nance. "I claimed him for $4,000 last year, and he has done nothing but win races for me. He is just a neat old horse, and it is fun to have him in my barn."

Hunt for Glory has won 9 of 14 starts since being claimed by Nance for owner Bill Bomar in October 2006.

As for Baquero Ruler, he was winning for only the second time in nine career starts, but Nance feels there are more wins in his future.

"He always showed a lot of ability in the morning, but he worked better than he ran," said the trainer. "I think he has just finally matured to the point where he can show what he can do. I was hoping he would eventually come out of his shell, and that was why I was reluctant to drop him in for a tag. I think he has done that now."

Nance nearly won a third stakes on Oregon Championship Day, but his heavily favored Ochoco Salmon fell a neck shy of catching the pacesetting Little Cascadian after lagging far behind early in the one-mile Oregon Hers for 3-year-old fillies.

"It's tough to make up that much ground when they go the first quarter in 25 seconds," said Nance. "She was a victim of the pace."

Emerald gets 91-day meeting for 2008

A 91-day meeting in 2008 was approved for Emerald Downs at Thursday's meeting of the Washington Horse Racing Commission. The track will open April 18 and race through Sept. 28.

Racing will be conducted Fridays through Sundays for the first six weeks of the season, with Thursday racing being added to the schedule on May 29.

The stakes schedule for the 2008 Emerald Downs meet, which will feature the 73rd running of the $400,000 Longacres Mile, will be announced in January.

Funeral for Austin, Longacres jockey

A funeral was scheduled to have been held Friday for former Longacres rider Steve Austin, who died of a heart attack on Dec. 8 at age 57.

Austin, who lived in Redondo, Wash., with his wife, Sandy, and daughter Ashley, rode at Longacres from 1967 through 1979 and compiled a record of 612 wins from 4,908 mounts. After retiring he served as film analyst at Longacres, and he later worked in the track's marketing department. He was operating an appliance repair store at the time of his death.

Fund to defray Ventura's expenses

A fund has been established to defray the final expenses of jockey Hector Ventura Jr., who was found dead in Auburn on Dec. 5. Those wishing to contribute to the Hector Ventura Jr. Benevolent Account can do so at any Bank of America branch. The account number is 34824557.

Ventura, a native of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, died at the age of 31 after winning 365 races from 2,902 mounts at Emerald Downs and Turf Paradise.