11/15/2010 2:43PM

Shamundi faces tough invader in Dennis Dodge


Trainer Ben Root wouldn’t mind if lightning struck again in Wednesday’s $15,000 Dennis Dodge Memorial at Portland Meadows.

He sends out Shamundi, an Oct. 20 debut winner, against six rivals in the 5 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-olds. It’s the same pattern as last year, when he won the race with Smoken Sham, a debut winner who was also making his second start.

Root said the race holds significance for him beyond the purse and stakes prestige.

“I always called Dennis a friend,” said Root of Dodge, a longtime Daily Racing Form correspondent who died in 2008 at 62. “He was always quick to help you out, and we shared an interest in young horses and handicapping.”

There are some similarities between Smoken Sham and Shamundi. Both are sons of Seattle Shamus. Both came from off the pace in their debut victories, and both come into the stakes with a five-furlong bullet work.

Last year, Root wasn’t facing the hottest trainer on the grounds in the Dennis Dodge, but he will be on Wednesday. Jerry Hollendorfer has 21 wins, 6 seconds, and 3 thirds from 34 starters at the meet, and he has entered El Gaucho, whose Beyer Speed Figures tower over this field. El Gaucho has been racing in Northern California, and he comes off a third-place finish in an allowance sprint on the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta. His Beyer Figure came back a 71, compared with the 49 Shamundi earned in his maiden victory.

Shamundi did overcome a bit of trouble in his debut, however. He did a little hop at the break and took several strides to get going, but he settled in nicely and made a strong move to pull away through the lane.

“He really impressed in his first race,” Root said, “but that California horse looks really tough.”

Jessica Gilbert, aboard for the maiden win, rides Shamundi on Wednesday.

The field also includes Cresent McGain, a two-time winner who captured an allowance race in his debut here; Our Tail Win, second to Cresent McGain in the allowance; and the the maiden Peach Blossom, who lost a photo in a Hastings stakes.

◗ Also on Wednesday, older horses will run a mile in the $15,000 Mt. Hood Handicap. The first four finishers in an Oct. 25 invitational handicap at Portland Meadows – Bijou Barrister, Olympic Lights, Overtime Victory, and Carry on John – meet again.