07/23/2001 11:00PM

Magna granted Portland license


Magna Entertainment, Inc., was formally licensed to operate a 2001-2002 race meet at Portland Meadows in a meeting of the Oregon Racing Commission on Monday.

Magna Entertainment, the Frank Stronach-owned company that operates Santa Anita, Gulfstream, and several other tracks, had previously been conditionally granted a period from Oct. 17, 2001, through April 28, 2002, in which to stage a meeting at Portland Meadows.

Magna said that it will race a total of 82 days from Saturday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, April 28. The track will conduct racing on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday basis with a 7 p.m. first post on Fridays and a 1 p.m. start on weekends.

Scott Daruty, a Magna vice president, also told the ORC that Magna has submitted a plan designed to bring Portland Meadows into compliance with the Clean Water Act of the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the plan probably will not be fully implemented by the time horses need to be in the barn area to prepare for the 2001-2002 meeting, Daruty said, the EPA has assured Magna that it will not object to the presence of horses so long as work is proceeding on schedule.

Penney looks tough for derby

Trainer Jim Penney holds a very strong hand for the Sept. 9 running of the 1 1/8-mile, $125,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby in the wake of Sunday's $40,000 Tacoma Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. The Penney-trained Jade Green confirmed the promise he had shown when he ran second in the one-mile Seattle Slew Handicap by winning the Tacoma by 1 1/2 lengths in a swift 1:42.40. In the same race, stablemate Sabertooth proved that he is more than a sprinter by holding on for second after setting the pace in his first route attempt.

"I was very pleased with the way both of them ran," said Penney. "Sabertooth has tremendous speed, and I thought he did very well to stretch it as far as he did. I've always felt Jade Green was a better horse over a route of ground, though. He is a true route horse."

Jade Green, a son of Jade Hunter and Peaceful Wings, by Halo, races for breeders Rick and Debbie Pabst and Lyle Malick. The Pabsts, who are commercial breeders, normally don't race their colts, but Jade Green was a special case.

"We had him entered in the Keeneland September sale as a yearling, but he ran into a fence and split his chest open," recalled Debbie Pabst. "We were sick about it at the time, because the Jade Hunter yearlings averaged $140,000 that year, but now we're glad we had to keep him. Racing him is a lot of fun."

Family ties

Aunt Sophie, who won Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Paragon Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, is another homebred, but one with even deeper roots in her owner's life.

"I've bred and raced three generations of the females in her family," reported trainer Charles Barth. "This filly was born in a field on a rainy night. We called her 'Seaweed' because she looked like a piece of limp, wet seaweed when we found her.

"Then we named her after my dad's German aunt, who was about 4 feet, 10 inches tall and tougher than nails. We figured if she was as tough as my dad's Aunt Sophie, she'd win a lot of races."

The equine Aunt Sophie has now won four of nine starts while working her way up from the $16,000 maiden claiming level. Barth gave rider Hector Ventura Jr. much of the credit for her latest win, and with good reason. Ventura steered Aunt Sophie through an opening on the rail in the upper stretch while Neon Queen had to swing four wide for racing room. After Aunt Sophie prevailed by just a neck over Neon Queen in 1:44, that ground-saving move seemed to make the difference.

Emerald asks for two more days

Emerald Downs has asked the Washington Horse Racing Commission for permission to extend its current meet by two days. Emerald wants to add Sunday, Sept. 16, and Monday, Sept. 17, to its schedule, which would raise its number of 2001 racing days to 91.

The days became available after last week's decision to revoke the license for Playfair, which was to have begun its meeting on Sept. 16.

* Pending approval from the WHRC on Wednesday, Silver Lanes Casino on East 28th St. in Spokane will begin operating as a satellite site for Emerald Downs on Thursday, July 26.