04/05/2006 11:00PM

Crimson Design tries Mile again

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PORTLAND, Ore. - All eyes will be on Crimson Design in Saturday's 39th renewal of the $25,000 Portland Meadows Mile.

The 5-year-old Crimson Design will go to the post as the 123-pound highweight and certain favorite on the strength of a record that includes 4 wins from 6 starts at Portland Meadows. He also won the Auburn Stakes at Emerald Downs as a 3-year-old, finished third to Demon Warlock and My Friend Dave in last year's edition of the Mile, and is coming off a half-length victory in the six-furlong Governor's Speed Handicap, the prime local prep for the Mile.

Neither of the horses who beat Crimson Design in last year's Mile will be in Saturday's field. Demon Warlock, who was named horse of the meeting at Emerald in 2004, is still recovering from a suspensory ligament injury he suffered winning the race last year. My Friend Dave, who was honored as this track's horse of the meeting last season, is awaiting a race in California.

"I don't think there are any horses like Demon Warlock and My Friend Dave in this year's field," said Jim Fergason, who trains Crimson Design for owners L. R. O'Brine and Marvin Pietila. "If Crimson Design can run the same race back that he ran last year, he should win."

Can he do that?

"That's the big question," said Fergason. "Last year I got two sprint preps into him before the Mile, but this year we only had time for one prep. I would have liked to run him again, but at least the race he had was a good one. He was fresh for the Governor's Speed, and he showed more speed than usual. I'm hoping he'll settle better this time and have something left for the stretch."

One of Crimson Design's more intriguing challengers has been flying under the radar to some degree. That challenger, Silent Exploit, has not been favored in six starts at the meeting against the top competition available, yet he has not finished worse than fourth, and he has won invitational handicaps at 5 1/2 furlongs and a mile. What is more, trainer Ben Root feels the 4-year-old Silent Exploit has not yet revealed his best stuff.

"It seems like every time he has run there has only been one speed horse, usually Tamper," said Root. "I've had to alter his style to deal with the speed, but I really believe he is better when he can settle in behind the pace. I think there is enough speed in the Mile to allow him to run that way. I just hope he still remembers how to do it."

Flashaway sees return of Slewicide Cruise

This year's Mile is in danger of being overshadowed by the reappearance of Slewicide Cruise in the five-furlong Flashaway Invitational Handicap on Saturday's undercard.

Many felt Slewicide Cruise was en route to becoming the best older horse in the Northwest after he notched his fourth straight win with a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 in last April's Seattle Handicap at Emerald Downs, but he was derailed by a suspensory injury shortly after that race. Trainer Robbie Baze put him back into training in January, and he has since registered six official workouts in preparation for his return.

"I think he is ready to go five furlongs," said Baze. "He looks good and he feels good, and he has been working really well. You never really know for sure until they race, but it seems like he is the same horse he was before he got hurt. I'm anxious to see him run again."

Lawanda ready to route vs. males

Trainer Jonathan Nance said that Lawanda, the impressive winner of last Saturday's Oregon Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, is likely to challenge the boys in the 1 1/16-mile Preview Stakes on April 15. If she proves competitive in that race, she will be pointed toward the 1 1/8-mile Oregon Derby on May 6.

"I've got her stretched out now, and she really wants to go long," said Nance. "If I take her up to Emerald there won't be any routes for the first couple of months, so it makes sense to me to keep her here and run her against the boys. I was really excited by the way she ran in the Oaks, and if she can run that race again or maybe even improve, I think she'll fit really well in the Preview and the derby."

Three-peat for Texan

Texas-based trainer K.C. Carden did it again in Sunday's $19,710 Professionals' Choice Claiming Challenge for Quarter Horses, winning the race for the third straight year with a horse he vanned in from Texas to compete. This year's hero was the 11-year-old No Options Mister, who won the 350-yard race by an authoritative 1 1/4 lengths in 18.04 seconds.

Sunday's race, which was run under $5,000 starter allowance conditions, was the first of 10 regional qualifying heats for the $75,000 Professionals' Choice Claiming Challenge Championship, which is one of six championship races to be run at Lone Star Park on Nov. 6.

Assistant trainer Alvin Francis, who saddled No Options Mister on Sunday, said he will definitely be pointed toward the Lone Star race.

"The trick will be keeping him from being claimed away from us," said Francis. "We'll run him over his head until November if we have to, or maybe we'll just rest him. We think he is the kind of horse who could win that race."