09/01/2003 11:00PM

Roscoe Pito ships in for score

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AUBURN, Wash. - This year's crop of 3-year-olds at Hastings may or may not be exceptional, but one thing seems certain.

They're better than the locals.

The connections of Emerald Downs-based top 3-year-olds thought they caught a break when Stratoplan, who shipped down from Vancouver and won the Aug. 10 Seattle Slew Handicap, elected to skip Monday's $105,625 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby at nine furlongs. Roscoe Pito came down in his stead, however, and proved just as hard to handle.

Under Sam Krasner, Roscoe Pito went to the front at the start and slowed the pace to 47.60 for the first half-mile, repelled a brief challenge from Weepinbell, and powered away to a two-length victory over the favored Condotierri. Knightsbridge Road finished five lengths farther back in third in the field of six.

Roscoe Pito ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.60 and paid $5.60 to win.

Roscoe Pito, who was winning his third straight stakes, was purchased for just $2,993 as a yearling in British Columbia by Raj Mutti, Gus Gomes, and trainer John Snow.

"He is from the first crop of Light of Mine, and he probably went cheap because the sire was unproven," said Snow. "My dad, Mel Snow, trained Light of Mine, though, and I was his assistant at that time. I always thought he was super talented, and I wanted to have one of his sons."

Roscoe Pito, who is named for longtime Hastings bartender Roscoe Rankin, didn't start until this year, but won his second start at the maiden special weight level and was twice stakes placed before starting his stakes-winning spree.

"We took the blinkers off him and worked hard to get him to relax early, and that has made all the difference," said Snow. "He has always had a great deal of natural speed, and now that he has learned to harness it he has become a much better horse."

Snow said Roscoe Pito will try to keep his win streak alive in the $250,000 British Columbia Derby, the highlight of the Hastings meeting, on Sept. 21.

Sala de Oro wins eventful Shinpoch

Most of the drama in Sunday's $84,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at a mile came in trying to get the race under way.

First, Fast Stitch Gal acted up in the gate, shaking up rider Scott Saito enough so that Kevin Murray had to be recruited from the jocks' room to take over the mount. Just as Murray arrived, Bubwiser escaped his handler, dumped rider Sandi Gann, and led the outriders on a merry chase, causing another delay.

After the remaining contestants were corralled in the gate, it was Ms. Tahoe Ridge's turn to act up. She tossed rider Jose Rivera Jr. out the back of the stall, then when he remounted and starter Mark Gibson popped the gate, she stumbled badly to unseat her rider once and for all.

Except for the pre-race antics, the Shinpoch went very much as expected. Sala de Oro, the 4-5 favorite after defeating most of her rivals in an allowance prep, stalked the pace of Aunt Tizzy through six furlongs in 1:12, then moved strongly to the front approaching the furlong marker and pulled away to score by two lengths over Americas Pride in 1:37.20.

Neither of the top two finishers were eligible for the Northwest Race Series, of which the Shinpoch is a part, so both had to be supplemented at a cost of $7,000. Their owners' investments were rewarded, as Sala de Oro earned $41,580 for her win and Americas Pride took home $15,120 for running second.

"My trainer thought we had a good shot, so it was a pretty easy decision to supplement," said Dave Mowat, who owns Sala de Oro. "Still, seven grand is seven grand, and I got pretty nervous when all the chaos happened before the race. Fortunately, the filly stayed calm. She showed her class."

Sala de Oro's first stakes win was the sixth at the meeting for first-year trainer Grant Forster, who also trains Emerald Distaff winner Infernal McGoon and four-time stakes winner Youcan'ttakeme.

"It has been an unbelievable year for me so far," Forster said. "I've got some great clients and some good horses, and of course my dad gave me a great shot to succeed."

Forster took over several horses previously trained by his father, Hastings trainer Dave Forster, when he took out his own trainer's license in January.

Sundance Circle injured in first loss

Sundance Circle suffered his first defeat, and worse, when he was beaten a length by Harvard Avenue in Saturday's $35,000 WTBA Lads Stakes at a mile. Trainer Howard Belvoir reported that Sundance Circle chipped a knee in the Lads and will undergo surgery on Sept. 11.

"He'll be out six months," said Belvoir. "It's a shame it happened, but at least it wasn't anything worse than a chip. He'll be back next year."

Despite Sundance Circle's misfortune, Harvard Avenue needn't apologize for his first stakes win. Harvard Avenue, who is trained by Tom Wenzel for Ron Crockett, covered the Lads distance in 1:36.20, the fastest mile clocking ever recorded by a 2-year-old at Emerald.