Updated on 09/17/2011 10:56AM

Dash of Fame finally sees the light


PORTLAND, Ore. - What has gotten into Dash of Fame?

A 3-year-old Quarter Horse, he couldn't manage a maiden win in three starts at tiny Grants Pass last summer and then gained a reputation as a dangerous horse in his first attempt at Portland Meadows on Nov. 3, 2002, as rider Rowdy Luark suffered a possible career-ending injury when the horse flipped in the gate. Luark suffered a broken leg and there have been complications with the healing.

Dash of Fame finally graduated when teamed for the first time with rider Joe Crispin in a trial for the Far West Futurity in December, then ran a bang-up second in the finals of that race before scoring two more impressive wins this month. The latest came on Saturday, when he turned the tables on Far West Futurity winner Cpr First Mate and won the $6,000-added Memorial Stakes.

Dash of Fame took the lead in the first stride and steadily drew out to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Evergreen Futurity winner Cpr First Straw, with Cpr First Mate third. His clocking of 17.98 seconds was the fastest of the meeting for 350 yards.

"He has become a monster, and he is still a little green yet," said Crispin. "He gets out of the gate so fast that he actually outbroke me the last two times I rode him, but I was ready for him this time. I went after him right from the beginning and he responded like a good horse. I've ridden some nice Quarter Horses, including In Search of Fame, but this guy has the potential to be as good as any of them. He really impresses me."

Dash of Fame impressed trainer, breeder, and part-owner Leroy Twiggs from the beginning, so it was a source of frustration that he took five starts to begin coming around.

"I always figured he was my best colt, even after LMJ Judgement Day won the Juvenile Futurity for me," Twiggs said. "His only problem was between his ears. I don't mean he wasn't smart, but he was green and I got a late start with him, so he was always running against more experienced runners. I think he finally has things figured out now, so I'm looking forward to the rest of his campaign."

Twiggs said Dash of Fame, who is by the top Northwest sire Dash Ta Fame, will go next in the trials for the Portland Meadows Quarter Horse Derby on March 8.

Stately's Choice proves Roots right

Another former problem horse came to full bloom on Sunday when Stately's Choice won the $10,000 Sweetheart Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

The training team of Jack and Cookie Root thought Stately's Choice, a 4-year-old daughter of their deceased sire Stately Wager, might be the most talented horse they had ever trained when she came to the track as a 2-year-old. A series of miscues, including four straight races in which she dwelt in the gate, prevented her from reaching her potential.

"She had a lot of mental quirks, and it took us a long time to figure her out," said Jack Root. "You can't touch her ears, for one thing, and she hates the head number. She wouldn't break when we had her wearing blinkers, and she tends to get out when you hit her.

"Bobby Webb worked with her a lot last summer and it is a shame he never got to ride her. He broke his collarbone right before her first race at this meeting and Amir Cedeno took over the mount. She has run so well for Amir that it wouldn't be right to take him off."

Under Cedeno, Stately's Choice has three wins, two seconds, and a third in six starts at the meeting, including a hard-earned victory in the Sweetheart. Cedeno saved ground on the first turn despite breaking from post 8, then moved wide on the second turn to take the lead at midstretch before staving off a late challenge from Tiffa to win by a neck in 1:48.20.

"Amir got her to do just what we wanted, and that is never easy," said Root. "You can ask her to do things, but you can't tell her to do anything."

Stately Wager, who died three years ago and has only two small crops of racing age, now has six winners from as many starters, including three stakes winners.

* Steve Jackson prevailed in last week's handicapping contest, boosting his imaginary $12,000 bankroll to $24,400 by picking 11 winners with 20 wagers. Jackson earned the $4,999 first prize by edging secon- place finisher Gary Westfall, who amassed a theoretical $21,520 in winnings.