03/23/2006 1:00AM

Crimson Design primed for Mile


PORTLAND, Ore. - It's too early to know who will ship in for the $25,000 Portland Meadows Mile on April 8, but they will have to bring along their running shoes to beat Crimson Design.

That much was made apparent in last Saturday's six-furlong Governor's Speed Handicap, the final local prep for the Mile. Crimson Design, who had been off since August, spotted five rivals a great deal of conditioning and up to five pounds. He nevertheless prevailed by a comfortable half-length in a quick 1:11.86 after pressing rapid fractions set by his stablemate Tamper. Northern California invader Flaming Bullet and Silent Exploit closed well to finish a head apart in second and third.

"I was going to stay off the pace, but he was fresh and he pulled me up there," said Juan Gutierrez, Crimson Design's regular rider. "He got a little tired at the end, but he kept digging in and he had enough left to hold off the closers. The race will probably do him a lot of good."

That was exactly what trainer Jim Fergason wanted.

"He needed a good strong race to get ready for the Mile, and I think he got it," said Fergason. "Now I'll try to keep him healthy and happy, and we'll hope for the best."

The 5-year-old Crimson Design finished third to Demon Warlock and My Friend Dave in last year's Portland Meadows Mile. He will not face those rivals this time. Demon Warlock is coming off an injury and My Friend Dave has been sent to northern California to await a race at Golden Gate Fields.

Ballou Slew's stay in California brief

Fergason's best 3-year-old, Ballou Slew, is back on the grounds after what turned out to be a one-race campaign at Golden Gate. Ballou Slew made his lone California start for trainer Art Sherman, running a distant fourth of five in a very tough $80,000 optional claiming race that was won by the Sherman-trained Barber in 1:08.20 for six furlongs.

Owner Art McFadden determined that Ballou Slew would fit better at Portland Meadows, where he won both of his starts, and the horse arrived back in Fergason's barn last Saturday.

"He looks good," Fergason said. "He seemed to handle the trip just fine, and he got back in plenty of time for me to get him ready for the Preview. If he shows he can go long in the Preview, we'll go ahead and run him in the Oregon Derby. I'll be surprised if he doesn't route, but if that's the case we'll just wait and sprint him at Emerald Downs."

The 1 1/16-mile Preview Stakes will be run on April 15 and the nine-furlong Oregon Derby will be contested three weeks later on May 6.

Big weekend for Webb

Ballou Slew handed Tom Two his only loss from six starts at the meeting when he won the six-furlong Flying Lark Stakes here in February, so Tom Two's owner and trainer, Delmer Webb, wasn't overjoyed to learn that his horse's nemesis was back on the scene. That was about the only glitch in Webb's weekend, however.

Webb, who also bred Tom Two with his wife, Shirley, first watched his stable star post an easy 3 1/2-length win over Piracy in the 1 1/16- mile McFadden Memorial for Oregon-bred 3-year-olds on Saturday. Later that evening, the Webbs collected a mantelful of trophies at the annual Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders' Association awards banquet in the turf club at Portland Meadows.

Tom Two, who has won 7 of 14 starts for $99,323 in earnings, was named the state's top 2-year-old colt and horse of the year for 2005. His dam, Sushi Q., who has also produced the stakes winners Yesss, Cyamaria, and Tom Won, was named Oregon's best broodmare. And Delmer and Shirley Webb were named the state's top breeders, an honor that includes a trip to Kentucky for the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's annual awards banquet in May.

Though flattered by all of the attention, Delmer Webb was quick to point out that Tom Two deserves most of the credit for his own success.

"He is a remarkable horse, and I have been plumb surprised by how well he has done," said Webb. "He wasn't big and impressive-looking like his brothers and sister, so I started him out in a $20,000 maiden claiming race. He exceeded my expectations every step of the way, and now he has a chance to make more money than any horse I have ever trained. Both Flying Huey and Yesss went over $100,000 for me, but Tom Two has earned almost that much and he just turned 3."

Other awards went to Cascades Express for top Oregon-bred 2-year-old filly for 2005; Quartern for top 3-year-old filly; Raggidy Rowe for top 3-year-old male; So Happy Together for top older filly or mare; and Eternal Secrecy for best older horse.