07/08/2007 11:00PM

Teaching 2-year-olds how to run

Email

AUBURN, Wash. - Doris Harwood likes to develop 2-year-olds, and it shows.

Harwood's juveniles won 13 races last year at Emerald Downs, where the trainer now campaigns exclusively, including the $100,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes, the meet's most important race for 2-year-old fillies, with Irene's Bonus Baby.

This season she has won 3 of the first 16 races for juveniles at Emerald, including the meet's first race for 2-year-olds, a maiden special weight affair, with the extremely promising filly Smarty Deb. A daughter of Smart Strike and the stakes-winning Wild Again mare Taste of Passion, Smarty Deb is a half-sister to the Harwood-trained Shampoo, who has won the first three stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the current Emerald Downs stand.

To be sure, Harwood's success with 2-year-olds is the result of having good stock to develop. She trains for Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms, which bred and races both Shampoo and Smarty Deb, and for Bob Rizzo and Dennis Turango's Golden Aggie Ranch, which has purchased well-bred yearlings at auction, including Irene's Bonus Baby and impressive recent maiden special weight winner Dat's Dream.

Harwood's success is also the result of a carefully designed program that she has fine-tuned over more than 20 years of training Thoroughbreds.

"I start working with my first set of young horses as soon as the Emerald Downs meeting ends in late September or early October," she said. "I don't want to say I start breaking them, because my objective isn't to break their spirit. It's to make them comfortable and confident. I want happy horses."

Harwood said her first set of young horses numbered 17 last year, and she worked with them through December. She then brought in another set and put them through their paces until Emerald Downs opened for training in February, when she brought all of her 2-year-olds to the track.

"By the time I bring them to the track their minds are prepared for what I will ask them to do," she said. "They have been going out in sets of three or four ever since they got out of the round corral at the training center, and they continue to do that at the track. I want them to be accustomed to being around other horses. I also like to put a lot of training days into them to prepare their bones for the demands of racing. When I finally enter them in a race, I want them ready. I think it is really important for them not to have a bad experience. They have to be absolutely as good as they can be, or I won't run them."

Another aspect of Harwood's program for young horses involves extensive vaccinations.

"I ask my owners to begin vaccinating before I get their horses, because it is important to build up their immune systems before they have to be around a lot of horses," said Harwood. "Then I continue the vaccinations on a regular basis. As a result, I have had very few sick horses. This spring we had an especially virulent virus at Emerald and a lot of horses were sick for weeks, but only a few of mine got sick and only two stayed sick for more than a couple of days."

Before she began training, Harwood was a rider at Longacres for about five years.

"I had some success as an apprentice, but I soon realized I wasn't the best rider in the world," she said. "I started working as an assistant trainer for Tommy Roberts in about 1980, and I knew right away that was what I wanted to do. I got my own trainer's license about five years later."

What Harwood likes most about training is developing 2-year-olds.

"It's a lot harder to do than racing a made horse, and therefore it is more satisfying when you are successful," she said. "When you take a horse who knows nothing and teach him everything, then you see him win, there's just nothing like it."