03/30/2006 12:00AM

Royal Snowflight far exceeds expectations


PORTLAND, Ore. - Owner and trainer Dave Runyon considers Chancy Chancy to be the best claim he has ever made. Runyon took Chancy Chancy for $6,250 when she was a 3-year-old in November 2003, and she has since compiled more than $50,000 in earnings while winning 9 of 27 starts, including three stakes, a trio of invitational handicaps, and two allowance races.

Runyon may have to revise his opinion, however, if Royal Snowflight can win Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Oregon Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at Portland Meadows.

The trainer claimed Royal Snowflight out of her maiden win for $6,250 in October, and she has already won a pair of stakes. She came right back off her maiden win to defeat the heavily favored Cascades Express in the Lassie Stakes in December. After finishing fourth to Lawanda in the Mt. St. Helens and dropping in to steal a race against $6,250 males in January, she evened the score with Lawanda with a head victory in the six-furlong Ms. Stakes in February.

"She has been a pleasant surprise from the start, just like Chancy Chancy," said Runyon. "When I claimed her, I was just hoping to get a useful filly who could go long. She had run a creditable race going long at Emerald, so I thought she might do. She has turned out to be a lot better than I thought she would be."

Another thing that Royal Snowflight shares with Chancy Chancy is a front-running style. Both horses have scored virtually all of their wins in gate-to-wire fashion.

"They are both very stubborn on the lead, so that's where I want them to be," said Runyon. "If somebody wants to go with them, they are welcome to try. If they do that they can hurt our chances, but I can just about guarantee that they won't be around at the end. It's their choice."

Runyon reported that another of his longtime campaigners, Savanna's Folley, has been retired and is scheduled to be bred to Cascadian. Savanna's Folley wrenched an ankle and was pulled up while leading her last race on March 19. The 7-year-old Savanna's Folley, who made all but one of her 49 starts under Runyon's colors, posted 17 wins, all at Portland Meadows, and earned nearly $41,000.

Ballou Slew beats elders

Ballou Slew wasted no time in reasserting himself upon his return from Golden Gate Fields, where he finished fourth against top company in his only start. Trainer Jim Fergason entered the 3-year-old Ballou Slew against older stakes winners in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance sprint last Sunday, and he led throughout to score by 7 1/4 lengths over stablemate Typhoon Aaron in 1:04.40, good for an 84 Beyer Speed Figure.

"People told me I was throwing him to the wolves, but I figured if he couldn't beat those horses he couldn't beat wide-open allowance horses at Emerald, which is where he'll end up," said Fergason. "He needed a workout anyway, so I thought I might as well run him and see what we've got."

It was the third win from as many starts at Portland Meadows for Ballou Slew, a son of Slewdledo who topped the 2003 OTBA sale as a weanling with a $9,500 price tag.

Fergason plans to run him next in the 1 1/16-mile Preview Stakes on April 15, which serves as a prep for the nine-furlong Oregon Derby on May 6.

La Kangura runs better without whip

Less was more for the 3-year-old Quarter Horse filly La Kangura, who won last Sunday's 400-yard Portland Meadows Derby without her rider, Zachary Sebreth, using a whip. La Kangura won the Northwest Futurity and the Memorial Stakes earlier in the meeting, but she was disqualified for interference after running second to Oh Perks Go in her final prep for the derby.

"She would veer out whenever the rider would go to the stick, and that was how she got disqualified," said owner Juan Leon, who also serves as assistant to trainer Gary Klinger. "We didn't want to risk it today, so we told Zachary not to use the whip unless he absolutely had to. As it turned out, he didn't have to."

La Kangura, a daughter of Fastnfierce, hit the front at the furlong marker and held steady to prevail by a head over CPR First Feature in 20.49 seconds. Oh Perks Go finished third as the 3-5 favorite in a field of nine.

Blue Mountain racing circuit saved

A bill signed last week by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire will allow racing to go forward at the non-profit meetings in Kennewick, Dayton, Waitsburg, and Walla Walla. The four tracks, known collectively as the Blue Mountain racing circuit, were threatened by the skyrocketing cost of jockey insurance.

The new law allows the Washington Horse Racing Commission to allocate up to $300,000 of its own budget to help pay for jockey insurance at the non-profit tracks and to establish a jockey incentive program. Both of those matters will be discussed at the WHRC's April 7 meeting in Kennewick.

The Blue Mountain racing circuit will get under way on April 8, when Sun Downs in Kennewick opens a 10-day meeting that stretches through May 7. Walla Walla will follow with racing on May 13 and 14, Waitsburg will race May 20 and 21, and Dayton will race May 27 and 28. Walla Walla will also stage a fair meet on Sept. 1, 2, and 3.