Oregon Championship Day is a Root Family Tradition
If you’re on track at Portland Meadows for Oregon Championship Day presented by Spirit Mountain Casino this next Sunday November 18th, and you’re sitting near the Finish Line Café or Mike’s Paddock Bar, you’re bound to see a big table full of Roots. The Root family that is, and they will be out in full force for what is always the biggest day on their racing calendar. The Root clan has been training runners and winners on Oregon Championship Day for well over twenty years. Dr. Jack Root brought his family back to Oregon shortly after finishing veterinarian school at Iowa State University in the early 80’s. His first horse that he owned and bred was a filly out of a mare he bought while back in Kentucky named Youth’s Bold Judy.
“Youth’s Bold Judy won first out for him as an owner for trainer Dave Duke back in 1986,” said Jack’s oldest son Ben, who has been training the families horses for about a decade now. “He thought the game was going to be just that easy and he really caught the horse racing bug.”
Jack ran the family barn from 1986 to 1995, racking up 263 victories and over $1,100,000 in purse earnings. When Jack decided to pursue his veterinarian business more full time, his wife Margaret took over the training duties at their Portland Meadows barn. Jack trained Yamhill Spade to an 13/1 upset win in the Oregon Futurity on Oregon Championship Day, eighteen years ago in 1994. Margaret, or Cookie as she’s known to most folks around the track, took over training for the next five years, racking up 139 winners including a win in the 1995 Oregon Futurity with Radiant Ruckus, a horse they bred in partnership with Patrick Cosgrove. They also took the Oregon Debutante that same day with Must Be Mighty. Cookie also trained Fit to Bet to a win in the 1999 Oregon Futurity.
In 1999, with Jack’s veterinarian practice and Cookie going to help head up their new breeding and racing venture, Oakhurst farm in Newberg, it was Ben’s turn to take over the barn at the track.
Ben has racked up 370 wins in his ten plus years of conditioning horses, with his base at Portland Meadows and spending numerous summers up at Emerald Downs.
“I take a lot from both my parents in terms of training, but I also learned a ton up at Emerald Downs,” said Ben Root. “Guys like Richard Wright, Pat Mullens, and Junior Coffey were guys who would answer my questions and taught me so much. Luckily I had a pretty good card playing addiction, so I’d sit and play cards with those guys all day and learned so much.”
Ben has captured ten Oregon Championship Day Stakes events in his career including the 2007 Oregon Futurity with Jimbos Fire Ant and knows what an important day it is for him and his family’s racing business.
“You have to point to Oregon Championship Day if you’re racing and breeding in Oregon,” said Ben Root. “Horses cost a lot of money to raise, but to have any chance of decent return or profit you have to point to that day, plus your competition is reduced because you only have to run against fellow Oregon breds. We’ve always taken pride in bringing two year olds along and we’ve had good success in the two year old races on Oregon Championship Day. For us to be sustainable we have to point towards Oregon Championship Day and to be honest we have to be successful. A win in a regular race takes care of training for a horse for a month or two, but a win in the Don Jackson Futurity pays for the whole barn for a couple months.”
In recent years Ben has taken on a full-time job working for one of his owners, Dan Warden of Gate-To-Wire Racing at CV International, a company that offers ground support for airplanes and helicopters.
“In the past few years, I’ve had some great assistants help run the barn day to day like Billy Christian, Carol Hubbard and Kim Wales,” said Ben Root. “This year mom has been back at the barn and even though I’m not there with her most days, we’re on the phone at least seven or eight times a day. She is so good with the horses and it really requires a lot of teamwork.”
The Roots have nominated seven runners for Oregon Championship Day presented by Spirit Mountain Casino this coming Sunday November 18th including five for the $25,000 Don Jackson Futurity.
“Those five horses come from three different ownership groups,” said Ben Root. “We’ve always had a policy that no matter how many horses we nominate to that race, if we have a two year old who we think deserves a shot to run in the race, we’re going to run him or her, even if it means taking on our other horses.”
Entries for Oregon Championship Day presented by Spirit Mountain Casino will be taken on Thursday November 15th and the races will be run on Sunday November 18th.