04/20/2005 12:00AM

Turning down a quick buck paid off


AUBURN, Wash. - Queenledo, the winner of last Saturday's U.S. Bank Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, almost didn't make it into trainer Tim McCanna's barn. Once there, she nearly made a quick exit.

McCanna said he purchased Queenledo's dam, Tenderness, almost on a whim. He had trained Tenderness during her racing career, and he became concerned about her fate after the bidding on her stalled at a rock-bottom $400 at a Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association winter sale in the mid 1990's.

"She had won six or eight races for me, and I thought she deserved to have a future as a broodmare," said McCanna. "I never really wanted to get into the breeding business, but I bid $500 on her, and she was mine."

McCanna gave Tenderness to his father-in-law, Harold Krupke, and they shared her foals, which in due course included Queenledo. After Queenledo won her first race here against $40,000 maidens in June of last year, the owners had a chance to turn a tidy profit by selling her to California interests. McCanna has nothing against turning a tidy profit, but something held him back.

"My brother Ray said, 'Why let a good horse go?' " recalled the trainer. "Then I got to thinking I kind of liked looking at her every morning. It's no fun when you've only got a bunch of slow ones to look at."

Instead of selling her outright, McCanna and Krupke sold shares of her to Ray McCanna, Jerry Ferry, and Stu and Robin Clifford. Under the banner of Kings and Queens Stable, Queenledo won one stakes and placed in two others as a 2-year-old, and she added to her credits with an authoritative 2 1/4-length victory under rider Ricky Frazier in the six-furlong U.S. Bank Stakes, which was run in 1:09.80 on a track labeled wet-fast.

"Ricky said she didn't really handle the mud very well and she cut herself up a little behind, but she didn't let that stop her," said McCanna. "She's just a racehorse, that's all. I'm glad I still have her."

Stakes next for Call Columbo

Charles Barth, the owner and trainer of Call Columbo, feels the 5-year-old may be ready to try stakes company after defeating allowance rivals at 5 1/2 furlongs here last Saturday. Barth said he will nominate Call Columbo to the $40,000 Fox Sports Net Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs on May 15.

"I think he might just be that good now," said Barth. "I've always liked him, but there was always one little thing or another holding him back. I turned him out last winter and got some weight on him, and now he is really in great shape. He's happy with his life now, and that means a lot."

Barth said he was surprised Call Columbo was able to close three lengths in the final furlong to nail Go Devil Go on the wire in 1:02.80.

"Five and a half furlongs is really too short for him," he said. "I even thought six furlongs might be a little short, so I didn't nominate him for the Seattle Handicap this weekend. Six and a half furlongs is just about right, though, so we'll give him a chance to show what he can do in the Fox Sports Net."

Call Columbo will likely be Barth's stable star at least until July, when Aunt Sophie returns to the races. Aunt Sophie, who was named last season's champion older filly or mare after winning three stakes at Emerald, strained a tendon in the Ballerina Stakes last October at Hastings.

"The tendon is in good shape now, and I'll put her back into training as soon as the track dries out," Barth said. "She likes the mud, but I haven't wanted to train her in the mud because of the tendon. My plan right now is to bring her back in the King County Handicap at a mile on July 3. I think I can train her into that race."

Strong opening weekend

Hopes for an especially strong meeting at Emerald were buoyed by the handle for the first three days of racing, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Despite cold, wet weather, the track handled $4,341,818, an increase of more than 32 percent over the handle for last year's first three days.

Last weekend's increase came on the heels of a gain in simulcast wagering during the off-season. Emerald's president, Ron Crockett, told the Washington Racing Commission last week that off-season simulcast wagering was averaging $422,242 per day, up 8.2 percent over the average for the last off-season.

Tournament carries $300K bonus

Fans have an additional 300,000 reasons for entering this year's Ultimate Qualifying Tournament, which will qualify nine contestants for the 2006 Daily Racing Form/ National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship next January in Las Vegas. The National Handicapping Championship carries a first prize of $200,000, but if the winner qualifies at Emerald he or she will receive an additional $300,000 from the track.

There are 400 slots for the Ultimate Qualifying Tournament, which will be held on July 31. Half of those slots will be filled by contestants to be chosen in a random drawing on June 26.

Another 100 slots will be filled by the top 100 players in the Emerald Rewards program, and the final 100 slots will go to handicappers invited at the discretion of contest officials.