Updated on 09/16/2011 8:38AM

Portland management doing rain dance


PORTLAND, Ore. - The racing surface at Portland Meadows was built for rain, as is prudent for any track that races in this part of the country at this time of year, and the problems that led to the cancellation of racing following last Sunday's fourth race can best be understood in that context.

Not that the brilliant fall weather that prevailed until this week was totally to blame. But a lack of rain played a role. The specific complaint that most riders voiced on Sunday was that the surface was uneven.

"We dug up the track on Tuesday of last week in order to make some repairs, and as soon as we did that the track was too deep," said track president Art McFadden. "We couldn't seem to get enough water on it with the water truck to get it to pack down again. I knew that was a problem. Anybody could see that from the slow times. But it was news to me when the riders said the track was uneven. We'll address that problem, but I still think the thing we need most is rain so that we can pack the track and get a firm base to work with, then cut a new cushion. I'm still praying for rain."

The track crew did what it could with a grader and a vibrating compactor early this week. On Wednesday morning it began to sprinkle.

"It's damp rather than wet, but the riders are saying the track is better this morning and there is supposed to be more rain on the way," jockey agent Keith Drebin said. "I think we're going to be okay."

Second-stringer takes first

The last race on Sunday was the $31,852 Evergreen Quarter Horse Futurity, which provided evidence that it never hurts to have a back-up when there is a lot of money on the line.

Trainer Baxter Andruss saddled the fastest qualifier and 3-5 favorite Phils Dash Ta Fame, but it was his second-stringer, CPR First Straw, who delivered. CPR First Straw had run just a day earlier, winning a trial for the Oregon-bred Juvenile, to be run Nov. 16, but he came right back to score a neck victory over second- choice Jrs Four By Four in 20.98 seconds for 400 yards. Phils Dash Ta Fame broke from the outside and never entered contention, finishing fourth.

"I guess it didn't hurt him to run two days in a row," Andruss said. "Really, I've run lots of them two days in a row, and they usually run better the second day.

"I'm surprised he beat my other horse, though. Phils Dash Ta Fame is usually better, but today I think he got to looking at the crowd and forgot to run."

Victor Mercado picked up the mount on CPR First Straw after scheduled rider Rowdy Luark suffered a broken leg in a gate mishap prior to Sunday's first race.

"I had never been on this horse before," Mercado said. "In fact, he is the first Quarter Horse I have ridden all year. Lots of people don't even realize I ride them, but I've won lots of Quarter Horse races in Arizona and Texas. I was glad to fill in, but I feel sorry for Rowdy and I'll take care of him."

Right You Are, indeed

Saturday's hero was Right You Are, who notched his fourth win from seven starts as the 1-2 choice in the $7,250 OTBA Sales Stakes. Under Kevin Murray, the Nub Norton-trained Right You Are led throughout to score by almost two lengths over Our Lucky Kiss in 1:14.60 for six furlongs.

The win lifted Right You Are's earnings over $20,000, which isn't bad for a horse who was purchased for $2,000 at last year's OTBA sale by Seattle residents Al Adams, Jack Garrison, and David Israel.

"We came down because there were four yearlings we liked in the catalog," Israel said. "This one was the cheapest, so we bought him."

Israel and Adams have owned horses together for 10 years and Garrison, who is also a veteran horse owner, joined the partnership last year. They have seven horses in all, but Right You Are is their stable star.

"He is the first 2-year-old we have had to win four races, and we hope he'll win another before the year is over," Israel said.

Norton said Right You Are, a Washington-bred son of Petersburg, will likely run next in the $10,000 Columbia River Handicap at six furlongs on Dec. 1.

"We won't run if Debbie runs her horse in there," he said, referring to the Debbie Van Horne-trained Knightsbridge Road, who is a stakes winner at Emerald. "If he runs, we'll send our horse home."

Van Horne said she didn't know if Knightsbridge Road would run in the Columbia River. "I nominated Knightsbridge Road for the Golden Bear Stakes at Golden Gate on November 23, and we'll see how that race comes up," she said. "If it's too tough, we'll run him here."