11/29/2002 12:00AM

Knightsbridge Road surprise player


PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Meadows fans will get an unexpected treat Sunday when Knightsbridge Road runs in the six-furlong Columbia River Handicap for 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Knightsbridge Road, perhaps the most accomplished horse on the grounds after posting two wins and four seconds in six starts against the best of his division at Emerald Downs over the summer, was expected to run in Sunday's Golden Bear Stakes at Golden Gate Fields. But after consulting with jockey agents who know the horse population at Golden Gate, trainer Debbie Van Horne decided to redirect Knightsbridge Road to the $10,000 Columbia River, instead.

"Everybody told me the race was coming up really tough, and I didn't want to take him all that way unless he had a good chance to win," Van Horne said of the Golden Bear. "The owners live around here and they like to see him run, so I'm just as happy to run him here. I'll probably turn him out after this race, and I'd like to see him go home on a winning note."

Knightsbridge Road was defeated by only one horse in his four losses at Emerald, as he ran second four times - by two lengths, three-quarters of a length, a neck, and a nose - to divisional champion Bub. He defeated Bub by a head in the six-furlong Emerald Express and was set for a sixth match-up against him in the Gottstein Futurity Sept. 15, but came up with a temperature a few days before the race and wasn't entered.

Instead, Van Horne took him to Santa Anita for the six-furlong Sunny Slope stakes on Oct. 19. He chased runaway winner Only the Best through sizzling fractions in that racebefore tiring to finish last.

"When I brought him back here and worked him after that race, I realized I just didn't have him tight enough to run in the Sunny Slope," said Van Horne. "The illness took more out of him than I realized. He came out of that race fine, though, and now he has had almost a month and a half to train up to this race. He should be ready to show his stuff."

Right You Are too ready to withdraw

Trainer Nub Norton admits that if he had known Knightsbridge Road would run in the Columbia River, he would have turned Right You Are out after he scored his fourth win as a juvenile in the OTBA Sales Stakes here on Nov. 2.

"We didn't think Knightsbridge Road would run, though, so we went ahead and got our horse ready," he said. "Now that he's ready, we might as well run him and hope for the best. If Knightsbridge Road runs his race, the rest of us are probably running for second. If he doesn't, it's wide open and we have as good a chance as anybody.

"Our horse is doing very well. He is an easy horse to train and he's nice to be around. He eats well, he feels good and is very professional on the track. Plus he has some talent. Any horse who can win four races as a 2-year-old has to be able to run some."

Stately Jack Flash tests out blinkers

Stately Jack Flash has a win in maiden special weight company and a second in the Bill Wineberg Stakes in his two starts, yet he has been something of a disappointment to trainer Cookie Root. His connections will try something new in the Columbia River to try to unlock his potential.

"We're going to put blinkers on him," said assistant trainer Dwayne Gallaher. "He has run okay, but if you watched him work in the mornings you would know that he's not running the way he is capable of running. The blinkers should help him to focus more, and that could make a world of difference."

Emerald, Playfair dates at issue

The Washington Horse Racing Commission will meet Wednesday in Auburn to allocate 2003 racing dates for the state, and one matter it must address is an overlap in the dates requested by Emerald Downs and Playfair. Emerald has asked to race 92 days, from April 19 through Sept. 22, while Playfair's new operator, Cleopatra Downs LLC, has requested a 40-day meeting from Sept. 12 through Dec. 7. The commission has been reluctant to approve overlaps in past years, citing a perceived shortage of horses.

The issue will be moot, however, unless Cleopatra can reach a contract agreement with eastern Washington horsemen before Wednesday's meeting. One condition of the operator's license stipulates that it must have a contract agreement before it can receive racing dates. As of mid-week, no agreement had been reached.