08/19/2004 11:00PM

At last, Mr. Makah puts Jenne in Mile

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AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Bonnie Jenne arrived in this area at the age of 12 in 1961 when her father, trainer Ed Lewis, moved his operation from Montana to Longacres. Soon thereafter she met Wally Jenne, who would become her husband, and Wally's childhood friend, Frank MacDonald, whose father was trainer Chub MacDonald.

Jenne remembers the year not so much because she was about to enter junior high, but because that was the year that Sparrow Castle won the Longacres Mile. It's the way racetrackers throughout the Northwest measure time.

Sunday, some 43 years later and 33 years after she took out her first trainer's license in 1971, Jenne will saddle her first Longacres Mile starter at Emerald Downs. Her horse is Mr. Makah, a 4-year-old son of Majesterian that she owns in partnership with her husband and Frank MacDonald.

"We were talking the other day about growing up on the backstretch at Longacres and watching all those Longacres Miles," Jenne said. "Who would have thought back then that we'd have our own horse in the Mile? And who would have thought it would be this horse?"

If Jenne had been asked to identify a potential Mile starter in her barn at the beginning of this season, she would have pointed to Mr. Makah's older full brother Colony Lane, a thorough professional who won last year's Washington Cup Classic. She wouldn't have thought of Mr. Makah, who was then an erratic and immature winner of only one race from seven outings.

Colony Lane got a late start, however, and he still hasn't recaptured his best form. Meanwhile, Mr. Makah has improved from race to race.

"The turnaround started when we put goggles on him a couple of months ago," said Jenne, referring to a hood equipped with clear plastic shields to protect the eyes. "Before then he would shy away from the flying dirt, so he would only run well when he got a clean trip on the outside."

With his new equipment, he ran a good third in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race, then won a mile allowance. Promoted to the stakes ranks, he finished a close third in the 1 1/16-mile Independence Day Handicap, then ran second to Poker Brad in the nine-furlong Mt. Rainier Handicap. During that four-race span, Mr. Makah's Beyer Speed Figures went from 82 to 89 to 92 and finally to 100.

"There is no question he is improving with every race, and that's one of the things that make us feel he has a shot in the Mile," said Jenne. "Another thing is that he has finished fastest of all in every one of those races. He also gets in light at 112 pounds, and he's got a rider [Scott Saito] who can actually make that weight."

Even so, Jenne feels that Mr. Makah will need things to break his way in order to pull off an upset.

"He'll need a clean trip and a fast pace to shoot at," she said. "There are an awful lot of speed horses in this field, though, and there shouldn't be too much traffic back where Mr. Makah will be. Stranger things have happened."

Poker Brad back for more

Twice before in the 68-year history of the Longacres Mile, the runner-up has returned the next year to win. Chinook Pass, who was second to Pompeii Court in 1982, won the Mile in 1983. Travelling Victor, who was second to Chinook Pass, won in 1984.

Trainer Tim McCanna would like to see history repeat itself, because McCanna trains last year's runner-up, Poker Brad.

"I think he's coming into the race as good as he went into last year's Mile," said McCanna. "He won the Mt. Rainier, just like he did last year, and he has trained super since then. He worked a half-mile in 45.40 and five furlongs in 58.80, and he was just cruising in both of those works."

There have been a few bumps along the way, however.

"We've been battling his feet for the past couple of weeks," said McCanna. "He has chronic bad feet and he keeps tearing his shoes off. It has gotten so there isn't much wall left to put nails into. [Trainer] Danny Kenney helped me out with an old-time remedy to toughen up his feet, though, and my blacksmith, Ben Gibson, built new fiberglass walls for the outside of his feet. One way or another, we've gotten through it."

There will be seven invaders in this year's Mile field, but none has the stature of Sky Jack, who defeated Poker Brad last year. McCanna didn't endorse the notion that his horse will have an easier task this year, however.

"I don't care who didn't come this year, it's going to be a dirty, tough race," he said. "Even if nobody came, it would be tough enough just with the locals. Salt Grinder is about as fast as they come, and all Demon Warlock knows how to do is win. I'm just happy to be in the race. You can go through an awful lot of horses before you find one good enough to run in the Mile, and I'm happy to have one. Now all I need is for Poker Brad to have a lot of luck and run the race of his life. That's what it takes to win the Longacres Mile."