11/12/2003 1:00AM

Americas Pride scares backers

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PORTLAND, Ore. - The drama came early in Saturday's $19,526 Janet Wineberg Stakes for Oregon-bred juvenile fillies, as the favored Americas Pride broke slowly and trailed the field of six up the backstretch. Those who backed Americas Pride down to 1-2 must have had their hearts in their mouths, but leading rider Juan Gutierrez professed to be unconcerned.

"I wasn't worried," he said. "I knew what kind of horse I was on. She was the class of this field."

The rider's confidence proved well founded. Americas Pride swept to the front while racing three wide on the turn and drew off to score by eight widening lengths in 1:14.67 for six furlongs on a deep, cuppy surface.

It was the fourth win from nine starts for Americas Pride, who has now earned $59,999. The lion's share of her earnings have come after she was claimed out of her second win at Emerald Downs on July 10, when the partnership of David Israel, Al Adams, and Jack Garrison took her for $16,000. Americas Pride, a daughter of Baquero and Americas Avenue, has since won two stakes and placed in another, and her owners would have made out like bandits were it not for the fact that she had to be supplemented to all three of her stakes engagements.

"We've paid over $12,000 in fees to supplement her to the stakes," Israel said. "I'm not complaining, though. She has more than earned back all the money we've spent on her, and it has been a lot of fun watching her run in stakes."

The owners and trainer Linda Northam hope to have a bit more fun with Americas Pride before turning her out late next month. She will come back in the $10,000 Lassie Stakes for open 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs on Nov. 22, then close out her campaign in either the $10,000 Jane Driggers Debutante for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs or the $28,345 Oregon Futurity for 2-year-olds at a mile on Oregon-bred Day, Dec. 13.

Yesss nearly collars Lethal Grande

A six-furlong allowance for older horses Saturday, designed as a prep for the one-mile Thanksgiving Handicap on Nov. 28, produced a scenario nearly opposite the Wineberg's. Lethal Grande, who was bet down to 1-2 after an authoritative win in the Oct. 18 Inaugural Handicap, looked as though he would blow the field away when he began to draw away from the pacesetters at the top of the stretch. But he was all out to prevail by three-quarters of a length over the late-running Yesss in 1:13.44.

"It looked like he would have gotten to the front in another couple of jumps," said Delmer Webb, who owns and trains Yesss. "That makes me feel a lot better about his chances in the Thanksgiving Handicap. I'm very encouraged."

Webb was also pleased by the improvement shown by Sullivanitis, who had been badly beaten in two starts since Webb had claimed him at Emerald for $16,000 for owner Dan Miller. Sullivanitis finished fourth of six on Saturday, but he yielded grudgingly after dueling for the early lead and was beaten only 3 1/4 lengths.

"He ran so badly in his first two starts for us that I was getting concerned, but this race was more like what we expected," Webb said. "He seems to be headed in the right direction again, and that's a relief."

'Fame' now 20 for 23 at Portland

Horse-for-course In Search of Fame notched his 20th win from 23 starts at Portland Meadows in Saturday's ninth race, a 300-yard allowance for older Quarter Horses. A 7-year-old, In Search of Fame had not raced since finishing fourth in the 440-Yard Championship here last March, and there was enough doubt about his condition Saturday to allow his odds to drift up to 8-5. Nevertheless, he drew off to score a convincing three-quarter-length win over Fishers Easy Effort in 15.89 seconds, just .34 off the track record.

Pick three wagers added to menu

Portland Meadows's success in selling its signal has resulted in larger wagering pools, making it feasible to add more exotic wagers to the schedule. As of Nov. 10, fans can wager on pick threes in races 1-3 and 4-6. This is in addition to the established pick four on races 3-6.

Emerald seeks director of racing

Emerald Downs vice president Jack Hodge said he is in the process of interviewing candidates for a director of racing to replace Grant Holcomb, who resigned last month after serving eight years in the post. Holcomb will remain on the job until the end of this year, but Hodge said he would like to have the new director of racing in place by mid-December.

Emerald will launch its ninth season in April.