11/11/2004 12:00AM

Root entry strong in numbers and ability


PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Ben Root has been on a roll in the restricted stakes for 2-year-olds at this meeting.

Root sent out Eighty Eighty for a 9 3/4-length win in the OTBA Sales Stakes at Portland Meadows two weeks ago, then last week he scored an upset in the Janet Wineberg Stakes for 2-year-old Oregon-bred fillies with first-time starter One Fast Cowgirl, who raced as part of a three-horse entry.

Root tries to keep his streak alive in Saturday's $19,280 Bill Wineberg Stakes, the colt and gelding counterpart to the Janet Wineberg and at the same six-furlong distance. Again Root will send out three horses, headed by Sales Stakes winner Eighty Eighty, who is eligible to win a bonus of $25,000 if he can complete a stakes double in the $41,780 Oregon Futurity at one mile on Dec. 11. Eighty Eighty does not need to win the Bill Wineberg to remain eligible for the bonus, but he will likely be favored to do so.

"He'll be coming back in only two weeks, but he won the Sales Stakes very easily and he came out of that race really well," said Root. "I think it makes sense to run him in the Bill Wineberg, then skip the Columbia River Stakes [Nov. 27] if it looks like he needs a break. The Columbia River is an open stakes, and the purse is only $10,000."

Rounding out the Root-trained trio are Wall St Kid, a front-running winner over maiden special weight company here on Oct. 30, and A Colt Named Sue, who will attempt to duplicate One Fast Cowgirl's Janet Wineberg feat, winning a stakes for Root in his career debut.

"I really think Wall St Kid and Eighty Eighty are about equal, at least sprinting," said Root. "Eighty Eighty won with a 51 Beyer and Wall St Kid got a 52, so there isn't much separating them. Wall St Kid might have a little more speed and Eighty Eighty is more versatile, but I won't think about strategy for them until I know their post positions."

Root said his entrants will not operate as a team, because they have different owners.

"They each stand alone," he said. "I treat them as individuals and try to give each one his best chance to win. That's the only way to be fair to the owners. I hope I have a lot of my horses running against each other in the stakes here. That will mean things are going well."

As for A Colt Named Sue, Root admitted that he will just be taking a shot with the first-time starter.

"He trained especially well on Saturday morning, so I thought I would give him a chance," said Root. "I would think he is at a big disadvantage against more seasoned horses, but that's what I thought about One Fast Cowgirl in the Janet Wineberg. You never really know."

Nance's Wineberg pair puzzle him

The Jonathan Nance-trained entry of Cascadiansasquatch and Absolute Motion might present the sternest opposition to the Root horses, but you wouldn't conclude that from their debuts. Cascadiansasquatch, a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Houston Shuffle, finished a distant second to Eighty Eighty after setting the early pace in the OTBA Sales Stakes. Abstract Motion ran fourth, beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Wall St Kid, in his first out, on Oct. 30.

"I was very disappointed in both of them," Nance said. "I thought I had Cascadiansasquatch pretty fit, but Eighty Eighty went right by him on the turn. He ran a funny race, though. He didn't break well, then he took a bad step at the three-eighths pole and he seemed to lose his momentum."

Nance has no excuse for Abstract Motion's even performance.

"I really thought he might be the best 2-year-old I've ever had, but it sure didn't look like it in his first race," he said. "That's the thing, though. It was just the first race for both of those horses, and they might just turn things around now that they have some experience. It's too early to get down on them."

Nevertheless, Nance conceded that Root is in a very strong position for the Bill Wineberg. So, in his own way, did trainer Roger Stevenson, who will send out longshot He's Bold in that race.

"I wouldn't say he can't win," said Stevenson of He's Bold, "but he'll have to improve a lot, and those horses of Ben's will have to de-prove."

That's not a word, of course, but it should be.

* With breeding season nearing, Jack Root revealed that he has two new stallions entering stud at his Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Newberg, Ore. Root said that Unbridled's Comet, a strapping gray son of Unbridled Song who sold for $1.9 million as a yearling, and Timber Legend, a son of Storm Cat from a mare who produced two Grade 1 winners, were added, raising the number of stallions at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds to nine.