03/13/2009 11:00PM

Stable doubles its chances


PORTLAND, Ore. - A funny thing happened when owner Glen Todd claimed Gather de Justice with an eye to the $25,000 Oregon Derby at Portland Meadows.

He got beat.

So Todd took out some insurance and claimed El Cugat, who beat Gather de Justice, in his next start and will have a tough one-two punch in Monday's 1 1/8-mile stakes that drew nine entrants.

Gather de Justice was odds-on and had won back-to-back races when claimed out of his second-place finish at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 25. El Cugat, who has never finished off the board in six starts, won his second straight when claimed for $25,000 at Golden Gate on Feb. 27.

"I actually went down and saw the race when we claimed El Cugat," said trainer Pat Jarvis. "He's a beautiful horse. I think they're both very nice horses. I'm looking for good efforts from them."

Locally based Polish Game and Thunder Thorn have never finished off the board here and come into the race off solid efforts.

They finished one-two in a pair of invitational handicaps on Feb. 4 and Feb. 25. Polish Game took the first race at one mile by 6 1/2 lengths. Thunder Thorn evened the score by a head going one mile and 70 yards.

Thunder Thorn set the pace in the second race but was passed by Polish Game in the lane before re-rallying.

"That was a big deal to fight back," said Ry Harwood, the owner, trainer and breeder of Thunder Thorn. "That other horse was cruising on by, but Troy [Stillwell] got to shoving on him and got him to come back. He's been training forwardly since. It sure helps to have a maturing horse coming into a race like this."

El Cugat and Thunder Thorn have shown speed, while Gather de Justice and Polish Game, who drew the rail, should appreciate the fact no one should be able to steal away to an easy lead.