11/05/2004 1:00AM

Showdown of juvenile title favorites in Ascot


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The $100,000 Ascot Graduation next Saturday is the last major stakes race at Hastings this year, and the headliners, Notis Otis and One Special Hoss, could have a provincial championship riding on the outcome.

Notis Otis is clearly the leading candidate for the juvenile title. A B.C.-bred colt, Notis Otis is undefeated, and three of his four wins have been in stakes races. One Special Hoss has won 3 of 4 starts, but his lone stakes win was in Alberta.

Since the Ascot is the only 1 1/16-mile stakes race for 2-year-old colts and geldings at the meet, it takes on added significance. Plus, two of Notis Otis's stakes wins were in restricted races. One Special Hoss hasn't had that luxury and has only faced open company.

With Beyer Figures, it's no contest. The lowest Beyer for One Special Hoss is 63, and his career-best is 79, which he earned for his win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race Oct. 24. The best figure for Notis Otis is the 63 he posted in the Jack Diamond Futurity. As important as Beyer Figures are, though, they don't tell the whole story. Notis Otis hasn't lost, and appears to go into another gear whenever it is needed.

Going into the Ascot, One Special Hoss should have the advantage. He has already gone around three turns, and although he finished third in his first try going a middle distance, he romped to a 6 3/4-length win the second time over the same horses he finished behind in his previous start.

"He had a real excuse the first time," said trainer Ed Thompson. "He grabbed a quarter and lost a shoe in the race. I was pretty confident that he would bounce back, and what can I say about his last race? He certainly made it look pretty easy."

Thompson said he was also pleased with One Special Hoss's six-furlong work in 1:14.60 over a good track Thursday morning.

"He came home the last eighth in 12 seconds flat, and he should be ready to run a good race," said Thompson. "He's going to need to, because that's a tough horse he's facing."

Although Notis Otis hasn't gone farther than 6 1/2 furlongs, his breeding suggests he will actually be a better horse going a distance. His dam, Sky Borne, had a lot of speed, but she could carry it a distance, as she showed when earning a 94 Beyer for her win in the 1999 B.C. Cup Distaff at 1 1/8 miles. Notis Otis is by Stephanotis, who carried his good speed to wins in the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales and the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day Handicap at Woodbine. Stephanotis also finished second to Skip Away going 1 1/8 miles.

Notis Otis will have a new jockey for the Ascot, Jake Barton. His usual rider, Chris Loseth, recently broke his collarbone while breaking yearlings and will miss the rest of the season.

"Jake's a much better rider than I am, so he should move him up," joked Loseth, the all-time leading rider at Hastings. "Of course I would like to be riding, but Jake will give him a good ride, so I'm not worried about it."

Loseth will also have more than just a passing interest in the outcome. His wife, Tracy McCarthy, trains Notis Otis, and his mother-in-law, Lola McCarthy, is part-owner.

Burningham comes back home

Jeff Burningham has come a long way since leaving Hastings as an apprentice in 2000. Since then he has ridden at 21 different tracks, including Woodbine, Keeneland, Aqueduct, and The Meadowlands. He spent most of this year riding at Louisiana Downs, where he was the sixth leading rider with 79 wins. For the year, he has won 101 races and has earned $1.3 million in purses.

Burningham, who is from B.C., is back in town for a short stay and will ride this weekend and possibly more.

"My wife and I came back to do some visiting and pick up a few things," he said. "Frank Barroby said he would put me on some horses if I wanted, so I thought it would be nice to ride this weekend."

Burningham has improved dramatically since leaving Hastings, and gives a lot of credit to the riders at Woodbine for his development.

"I learned a lot about riding there, what you can and can't do on the horse," said Burningham. "Plus, you really have to keep a straight path there. You can be a little more aggressive in Louisiana."

Burningham will head south again and is planning to ride at Sam Houston, which begins Nov. 17.

* Hastings has an interesting promotion running from Nov. 7 to Dec. 31. The track is giving away $100 through a draw every hour from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.