12/21/2002 1:00AM

Dash of Fame heads Far West Futurity


PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Leroy Twiggs, who sent out Lmj Judgement Day to win the $16,750 Oregon-bred Quarter Horse Juvenile earlier in the meet, will have an opportunity to complete a lucrative double on Sunday when he sends out Dash of Fame as one of the favorites in the $41,557 Far West Futurity at 400 yards.

Dash of Fame, a sorrel son of Dash Ta Fame and Lightning N Lace who was bred by his trainer, won the fastest of three qualifying heats here on Dec. 7.

Dash of Fame sped 400 yards and qualified in 20.43 seconds despite breaking from a usually disadvantageous rail post. It was his first win from five starts, though he has never finished worse than fourth.

"I've always felt he was a nice horse," Twiggs said. "His dam is by Takin on the Cash, who was a World Champion, and I had high hopes for her before she chipped a knee as a 2-year-old.

"I kept him eligible for this race even though I didn't keep Lmj Judgement Day eligible, so you know I liked him. It was just a matter of him putting it all together, and he did that in his trial heat. I just hope he can do it again in the final."

Dash of Fame received a vote of confidence from rider Joe Crispin, who rode two other qualifiers in the trials, including Cpr First Straw, who was the Oregon-bred Juvenile runner-up. Crispin has elected to stick with Dash of Fame for the Far West Futurity, which offers the richest purse for Quarter Horses this meet.

The Easy Road worth taking

One of Dash of Fame's more intriguing challengers is The Easy Road, who is one of only three Quarter Horses in training sired by the Thoroughbred sire Cisco Road. One of the others, Sissy Road, won a maiden special weight race in his third career start on Saturday's Oregon-bred Day program.

The Easy Road finished second to Cpr First Straw in his qualifying heat, but owner-trainer Jim Fergason, who stands the gelding's sire at his farm in Vancouver, feels The Easy Road still has room for improvement.

"He has a real good mind, and he has shown me more each time he has run," Fergason said. "If he takes one more step forward, he can be right there."

Fergason has secured the riding services of Clark Jones. Jones was the third-leading rider last season at Portland Meadows, but he has been riding at Turf Paradise this winter.

Jones has enjoyed his best success as the regular rider for the brilliant 2-year-old Quarter Horse Meteoric, who most recently ran second as the favorite in last Friday's $1.3 million Los Alamitos Million Futurity.

Meteoric, an Idaho-bred trained by Lin Melton, earned $244,283 for his runner-up effort, which was just his second loss from 10 starts.

Fergason said that Jones will arrive in Portland this weekend and ride out the remainder of the current meet.

Purse compromise talks

The Organization for the Preservation of Horse Racing in the Northwest and Inland Empire Horsemen's Association, the two groups vying to represent Eastern Washington horsemen in negotiations for a 2003 purse contract at Playfair, met last week and agreed on a compromise proposal for purses, according to OPHRN president Jay Healy.

Eric Nelson, the Las Vegas-based businessman who has been licensed to operate Playfair, responded to the proposal with a counter-proposal, according to Healy.

Nelson, who couldn't be reached for comment, proposed that the competing horsemen's groups sign an agreement that would allow him to begin simulcast operations at Playfair immediately, then hold an election in the spring to determine which group has the right to speak for horsemen.

Healy said Nelson's plan is not acceptable to OPHRN and probably wouldn't meet the condition laid down in Nelson's license, which requires a contract with the horsemen to be in place before simulcasting begins.

Nelson hasn't been able to reach a contract agreement with OPHRN, which has represented Playfair horsemen since 1995, and the Washington Horse Racing Commission declined to recognize a contract he signed with the hastily organized Inland Empire.

An election to determine which of the competing groups represents Eastern Washington horsemen, if conducted according to national Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association guidelines, would take at least 80 days, according to Healy.

Nelson had hoped to begin simulcasting by Jan. 2, but that target now seems unrealistic and at least some of the purse dollars that might have been generated by pre-season simulcasting seem certain to be lost.

Washington Cup Day moved

Director of racing Grant Holcomb reported that the date for the inaugural Washington Cup Day at Emerald Downs has been moved back a day to Sunday, Sept. 21. The program has been expanded to include a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up.

The addition will bring the number of stakes for Washington-breds on Washington Cup day to seven, all with purses of $50,000. The $100,000 Gottstein Futurity, which is not restricted to Washington-breds, will also be run on Sept. 21.