02/03/2005 12:00AM

Root may run three in Ms.


PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Ben Root is loaded with good 3-year-old fillies this season, and that will be apparent in Saturday's six-furlong Ms. Stakes at Portland Meadows.

Root entered three fillies - Quartern, the OTBA Stallion Stakes winner; Gordys Sweet Jordy, the Jane Driggers Debutante runner-up; and One Fast Cowgirl, second in the Lassie Stakes and third in the Driggers - in the $7,500 Ms., and the first two will definitely start. One Fast Cowgirl's status will be a race-day decision.

"I'm really not crazy about running them against each other, but they all have different owners and they all deserve a shot," Root said. "If this race were a route, I'd have My Emy My Amy in it, too, and I just put Miss Bliss back in training after a little freshening. Somewhere down the line, I could conceivably have all five of them in the same race."

Quartern, a daughter of Danjur, and Gordys Sweet Jordy, who is by Baquero, will be enough to give Root a big chance in the Ms., and Root said he feels they make a complementary pair.

"Quartern is jumpy and nervous like a Quarter Horse, but she is actually very controllable, and I think she will be comfortable sitting off the pace," he said. "Gordys Sweet Jordy is just the opposite. All through her training she has been very professional, and she has a sweet, gentle disposition. She is kind of a runaway when you get her in a race, though, and at this stage of her career we probably don't have any choice but to let her go to the front."

Who offers Root his best opportunity for success?

"It's really tough to say," Root said. "It probably depends on their post positions and the way the pace unfolds. Then there is the question of who handles the new track surface. Neither of my fillies are very big, and both of them could get tired if the surface is still cuppy on Saturday."

Root was referring to a track renovation project that took place Tuesday and Wednesday. About 1,100 tons of sand, or roughly an inch, was added to the track. Track officials and horsemen are hoping for rain, which is in the forecast for later in the week, to help the new material settle.

Wice O Kat looking to improve

The Root entrants figure to get their stiffest opposition from Wice O Kat, who defeated the boys in the one-mile Oregon Futurity before running second to Gordys Sweet Jordy in an invitational handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Jim Fergason, who trains Wice O Kat for her breeders and owners, Mr. and Mrs. William Johnson, said there is reason to believe the filly can improve on her three-quarter-length loss in her most recent outing.

"She has trained much better for this race, and I think the extra sixteenth will help," Fergason said. "I'd like her even more if she were going a mile, but I think she can do better than she did last time."

One Tuft Woeman to Bay Meadows

Trainer Nick Lowe said Jane Driggers Debutante winner One Tuft Woeman will skip the Ms. in favor of a richer race at the just-opened Bay Meadows meeting.

"I noticed last week that Golden Gate ran a race for $16,000 fillies with a $19,000 purse, and it went with a short field," he said. "They cut the stakes purses here, and now the purse for the Ms. is only $7,500, so it just makes sense to look for a race down there."

Lowe doesn't mind traveling if there is money involved. For the second straight year, he was part of the team that represented Portland Meadows at the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas two weeks ago. He finished 57th in a field of 214.

"I got off to a horrible start, but I rallied on the second day," he said. "I still didn't win any money, but I improved my position from 117th last year. I figure if I can improve that much next year, I'll be dangerous."

Jeff Smith, apprentice, gets first win

Apprentice Jeff Smith notched his first career win in his 17th start last Saturday, when he guided the favored Carls Favorite to a half-length victory in the sixth race.

Smith, 21, is the grandson of longtime Longacres steward Bobby Smith and the son of trainer D.W. Smith. He paid his dues by mucking stalls, galloping horses, working in the jocks' room, and serving as an assistant trainer before yielding to his desire to ride.

"It's the dream of everyone who grows up in racing to ride professionally," he said.

Smith said he was so wrapped up in Saturday's race that he didn't immediately realize what he had done.

"It took about 10 seconds before it hit me," he said. "When we were galloping out after the race, I heard the cheers. Then I started getting really excited."

Smith has been riding at 121 pounds, so he has never claimed his apprentice weight allowance.