07/18/2005 11:00PM

Root enjoys revival after two subpar meets


AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Ben Root saddled three winners from six starters at Emerald Downs last week, improving his record at the meeting to 12 wins from 54 starters for a 22 percent success rate.

That is a gratifying run by anyone's standards, but this season's success is especially sweet for Root, who took a beating here at the last two meetings. Despite coming off highly successful stints at Portland Meadows, Root was just 2 for 29 here in 2003 and 3 for 87 last year.

"I'm a person who loves to win and hates to lose, so it was a very frustrating experience for me," said Root, 28. "I would lead horses over there thinking they had a good chance to win, and they would run third or fourth or fifth. It got so that even my grooms were coming to me and asking me why we weren't winning, and I didn't know what to tell them. It was emotionally draining."

Root cited a number of factors for this season's turnaround. He said other trainers have been generous with their advice about how to operate at Emerald Downs. He noted that his grooms and his main exercise rider, Jennifer Tooley, have now been with him for two years and understand how he wants things done. And he said his owners have been especially supportive, claiming horses such as Little Cutie and Peaches N Schemes, then allowing Root to run them where they can win.

"That's probably the main thing," said Root. "The horses I have now fit a little better up here, and I've been able to find better spots for them. I know the average odds for my starters this year has got to be less than half what it was last year. It's tough to win races when everything you run goes off at 15-1."

Finally, Root said he is a believer in the adage that success breeds success.

"We got lucky and won our first race at the meeting with Gordys Sweet Jordy, and that sort of set a different tone around the barn," he said. "There is such a thing as momentum in all sports, and that includes horse racing. When things are going good, you avoid the traffic and win the photos. When they are going bad, everything that can go wrong does go wrong."

Things are going very well for Root, who gave up a career in sports and event management to become a trainer. He wants to enjoy it while it lasts.

"I've got to enjoy it, because I know everything could turn around tomorrow," he said. "This is a tough business, and just about everybody in it goes through some bad streaks. I hope the roll I'm on now continues, but I know it might not."

New acquisition will point to Washington Oaks

The Penney barn - trainer Jim Penney, his daughter and assistant, Kay Cooper, and his son-in-law, exercise rider Bryson Cooper - has added another stakes runner to its ranks.

Bryson Cooper reported that Gentle Flow, a 3-year-old filly who has won 2 of 4 starts at Lone Star, arrived here last Friday after being purchased privately by owners Beth and Zach Correa.

"She looks great, and we're anxious to get started with trying to stretch her out," he said. "She has only sprinted so far, but she has been finishing strong and she is bred to go quite a bit farther."

Gentle Flow, a daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Gentlemen, was trained by Steve Asmussen at Lone Star. She will now take aim at the $100,000 Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 20.

Gentle Flow joins Flamethrowintexan, who was claimed for $62,500 last year and has subsequently earned more than $300,000, in the Penney barn. The barn also claimed the 3-year-old Be a Halo for $50,000 last month at Arlington Park.

Chaves nearly ready to ride

Jockey Nate Chaves, who suffered a broken bone in his wrist in a paddock accident here on June 19, is expected to receive his medical release to resume riding on July 26, according to agent Steve Peery. Peery said Chaves will start working horses on the day he is released and will probably ride that weekend, July 30-31.

Chaves, who won the 2002 Longacres Mile aboard Sabertooth, had 15 wins from 94 mounts before being injured.

* Longacres Mile hopeful Harvard Avenue worked a half- mile in 48.80 seconds on Sunday at Hollywood Park. Harvard Avenue, a 4-year-old owned by Emerald president Ron Crockett and trained by Doug O'Neill, is slated to run in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Sunday. A good showing would earn Harvard Avenue a shot at the Grade 3 Mile, which will be run here on Aug. 21.