10/04/2005 11:00PM

From the valley to the mountaintop


AUBURN, Wash. - It's no secret that racing produces some of the highest peaks and lowest valleys in all of sport, but they rarely occur as close together as they did for trainer Bonnie Jenne on Sunday's Washington Cup Day program.

Jenne watched in horror as her undefeated 2-year-old Whosboyareyou was humanely destroyed after fracturing a sesamoid bone in the Captain Condo Stakes, which went as the sixth race. An hour and a half later, she saw her entry of Mr. Makah and Best Game in Town finish one-two in the featured Muckleshoot Tribal Classic.

"We went out and partied afterward, but I didn't know whether I was celebrating or drowning my sorrows," said the trainer. "I guess I was doing both."

As Jenne was talking on Monday morning, trainer Allen Gideon dropped by her barn to offer "congratulations and condolences," which seemed to say it all.

With only five horses and four betting interests, the 1 1/16-mile Muckleshoot Tribal Classic was looked upon as a dubious climax to the Washington Cup Day program, which included seven stakes for Washington-bred or Washington-sired runners. That is, until it turned out to be the most exciting race on the card.

One might even say the Classic was the two most exciting races on the card, because Sabertooth and The Great Face engaged in what seemed a separate contest, running a dozen or more lengths in front of their early pursuers. Encouraged by a potent speed bias, those two battled through fractions of 22, 44.20 and 1:09 for six furlongs before being collared by Mr. Makah, who came from 20 lengths back on the sloppy track. It seemed that Mr. Makah might turn the race into the kind of rout Borrego administered in Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup, but in fact he had to dig deep to hold off the surprising late charge of his entrymate by a neck in 1:42.40.

"You know, I only entered Best Game in Town to try to keep Sabertooth honest on the lead, but when The Great Face entered I was able to let him run his own race," said Jenne. "He loves the mud and he came into the race as well as any horse I have trained, but I still didn't think he could get that close to Mr. Makah."

Mr. Makah, a 5-year-old son of Majesterian and Evergreen Beauty, races for Friendship Stable, the nom de course of Bonnie and Wally Jenne and their longtime friend Frank MacDonald. The same connections won the inaugural Classic with Mr. Makah's full brother Colony Lane in 2003.

Jenne said Mr. Makah will race once more this season, in the $100,000 British Columbia Premier's at Hastings Park on Oct. 16. Mr. Makah, who has now won 5 of 23 starts for $178,386 in earnings, ran fourth of 10 in last year's renewal of the 1 3/8-mile Premier's.

Eight straight for Halonator

Halonator and trainer Dan Markle capped a truly remarkable run in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Belle Roberts, leading throughout to score by 1 1/2 lengths over Carrie's a Jewel in 1:43.40. It was the eighth straight win for Halonator, who began her streak with a score over $4,000 claimers in April. Markle remembers that race all too well.

"She was so bad at the gate that day, it seemed like it took 15 minutes to load her," said Markle. "I was so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl under the grandstand. The owners, Tim and Sue Spooner, were as embarrassed as I was, and Sue wanted me to call over to the gate and have them scratch her. When they finally got her in, everybody else had fallen asleep, so she went right to the front and led all the way. Honestly, we wanted to give the money back."

Such behavior was typical of Halonator's earlier days, when she was a terror around the barn, in the paddock, and at the gate.

"I trained her mother, Fifteen Halos, and she was just as bad," Markle recalled. "Thankfully, Jerry Woods claimed her away for a broodmare, and I thought I was rid of her. Then Jerry bred her to Delineator, of all sires, and then Tim and Sue went out and bought her foal! I wasn't really looking forward to training her."

As Markle's comments imply, Delineator has a dubious reputation with Northwest horsemen. Although he sires a high percentage of talented runners, he sires an even higher percentage of head cases. Halonator was a case in point, but Markle was obviously able to turn her around.

"I had a lot of help," said the trainer. "Pat McDowell, the paddock judge, was very patient with her, and so was Scott Sacca on the gate crew and Mark Gibson, the starter. She tested everybody's patience and she almost got ruled off the grounds, but it paid off in the end. I never would have thought that a filly who caused us so much grief would end up giving us so much enjoyment."