04/01/2004 12:00AM

'Might E' looks hard to deny

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Might E Man heads a field of eight in Saturday's $20,000 Oregon Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

Might E Man, a 3-year-old son of Baquero who races for breeder Margaret Root, won the major derby prep, the 1 1/16-mile Preview Stakes, by 1 1/4 lengths over Santiam Top Jazz. Might E Man had earlier placed in four stakes at the meeting, but he clearly raised his game when trainer Ben Root removed his blinkers for the Preview.

"Taking off the blinkers really helped, and I think it also helped that I backed off his training a little bit before the Preview," said the trainer. "I have tried to follow the same schedule for derby, and he seems to be doing as well as he ever has."

Nate Chaves, who rode Might E Man for the first time in the Preview, again has the mount.

Might E Man figures to get his sternest challenge from the highly consistent Mythical Road, who has a stakes win and five stakes placings from six starts at the meeting. Mythical Road, a son of Cisco Road from the barn of trainer Richard Occhiuto, finished third as the favorite in the Preview after breaking from post 11.

"I thought he ran well considering that he was never able to save ground," said Occhiuto. "He's a nice, honest horse, but he isn't so talented that he can overcome a lot of obstacles. I think if he draws a good post and is able to stay out of traffic, he'll have as good a chance as anyone. He just can't afford another bad trip."

Leading rider Juan Gutierrez has the mount.