05/03/2006 12:00AM

Starbird Road may yet attempt a mile

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AUBURN, Wash. - It will be one more sprint and then back to the drawing board with Starbird Road, the hero of Sunday's $40,000 Seattle Handicap at six furlongs.

Trainer Sharon Ross said Starbird Road, a 5-year-old son of Count the Time, will run in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap on May 29, but that he will not follow the local stakes schedule around two turns.

"He'll get 6 1/2 furlongs with no problem, but we don't think he'll go long," said Ross. "I wouldn't want to discourage him by asking him to do something he can't do."

Ross later relented just a bit when she said she might give Starbird Road a chance to prove her wrong about his distance limitations.

"I always like to give my horses one shot at going long, but I'd just rather not do that in a stakes," she said. "If there is an allowance race or an optional claimer for him at a mile, and it doesn't conflict with anything else, I'll let him try a mile. I just don't want to overmatch him when I feel he wouldn't be playing his best game."

Owner Rick Beal, who claimed Starbird Road as a 2-year-old for $25,000, was afraid Starbird Road would be overmatched in the Seattle Handicap. Beal said he favored running Starbird Road in the allowance race that went as Sunday's eighth race, but that Ross and rider Debbie Hoonan argued forcefully for running him in the Seattle.

"I wanted to let him run against softer competition for his first start of the year, but they were pretty insistent about running him in the stakes," said the owner. "You know Debbie doesn't usually say much, but she talked to me twice to make sure I understood how well he was training. I finally let them have their way. I'm glad I didn't mess things up."

Starbird Road, who won three optional claiming sprints at 4 after missing his entire 3-year-old season with a tendon injury, proved more than equal to his task on Sunday. After stalking a contested pace from the outside, he powered to the front in the upper stretch and finished two lengths clear of Spanish Highway in 1:08.60. Overlooked in the wagering, he paid $34.60 to win as the eighth choice in a field of 12. Nevertheless, his performance didn't surprise his trainer.

"I really did expect him to give a big effort," said Ross. "After he missed his 3-year-old season, he was playing catch-up all last year. This year I felt he would be seasoned horse, and he just trained awesome all spring. I think he has developed into a really nice sprinter."

Norm's Nephew healthy again

Trainer Jimmy Orr said that Norm's Nephew, one of the top 3 year-olds on the grounds last year, has recovered from the low-grade virus that kept him out of the Seattle Handicap.

"He is much better now, and I think it is a good sign that he got over the illness quickly," said Orr. "He didn't miss much training, and I think he'll be ready to race again pretty soon. The timing was just bad, that's all. On the other hand, I'm not sure we really wanted to hook into Starbird Road anyway."

EZ Speedy has bonus shot

At Portland Meadows on Sunday, the Scott Raley-trained EZ Speedy earned $11,420 and a shot at a $100,000 bonus when he posted a convincing 1 1/4-length victory over entrymate Dashing Reckless Gal in the 300-yard Portland Meadows Quarter Horse Futurity. EZ Speedy, a son of Special Leader who races for owner Gary Chumbley, got the distance in 15.92 under rider Jaime Martinez and paid $4.60 to win as part of the favored entry.

To earn the $100,000 bonus for sweeping the Oregon Quarter Horse triple crown, EZ Speedy will have to win the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass on Fourth of July weekend, then return to Portland Meadows to win the Northwest Open Futurity in the Fall. The bonus has been offered for three years, but it has yet to be collected.

Schoolin You won't run in Auburn

The name of Schoolin You, who was honored as the top juvenile at Emerald Downs last season, was conspicuously absent from the list of 12 3-year-olds nominated for Sunday's $40,000 Auburn Stakes at six furlongs. Owner Mike Feuerborn said Schoolin You suffered a foot injury in training that will delay his 2006 debut.

Nominated for the Auburn were Ballou Slew, Casey's Cone, Courting Seattle, Exclusive Eagle, Gucci for You, Hey Nineteen, My Friend Luis, Plain James, Ragin Nonno, Raise the Bluff, Sharper Edge, and Tusko T.

Ballou Slew, a winner of four straight at Portland Meadows, was also nominated to Saturday's $15,000 Oregon Derby at nine furlongs, but regular rider Clark Jones said he will run in the Auburn.

* A decision has not yet been made regarding whether to make up last Saturday's card at Emerald Downs, which was lost to a power failure. All nine of the races that were scheduled to be run last Saturday will be offered as extras for this Saturday's program. though. Emerald's director of racing, Paul Ryneveld, said horses who were originally entered in those races will be accorded preference.