06/21/2001 11:00PM

Desert Q. T., best chip off the block

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AUBURN, Wash. - Desert Q. T. enters Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Emerald Downs as a maiden, but that doesn't mean she lacks credentials.

The Northwest Farms homebred is by Dynaformer, one of the nation's top grass sires and a premier source of stamina, and she is out of Firesweeper, who needs no introduction to Northwest racing fans. Firesweeper was the most distinguished filly to race at Longacres, winning a record-equaling 12 stakes at the Renton track from 1985 through 1987, when she retired with earnings of $363,394 from 13 wins in 34 starts. Her 13th win came in the 6 1/2-furlong Mt. Wilson Stakes on Santa Anita's downhill turf course.

Since retiring to owner Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms in Yakima, Firesweeper has produced seven foals of racing age. Four have won, and two - June Jones and Twenty Questions - have been stakes placed. It is fair to say, however, that Firesweeper has yet to come close to reproducing herself. Trainer Bob McMeans, who also trained Firesweeper, hopes that Desert Q. T. will be the filly to follow in her mother's footsteps. He admits, however, that he sees few similarities between mother and daughter at this point.

"They are two different types," said the trainer. "Desert Q. T. is quite a bit bigger than her mama, and her personality is way different. Firesweeper was a very kind horse, but this one is a handful. She is pretty hyper, and that is really why she didn't get started earlier. She was ready to run when the meeting opened, but she had a problem with the gate and it took her a long time to get over it."

Then again, McMeans wasn't looking for similarities between Firesweeper and Desert Q. T. for the first three months he had her. That was because he thought the filly was Time for Me, a 3-year-old daughter of Cox's Ridge who won her career debut late last month for trainer Terry Gillihan.

"I was supposed to get Time for Me and Gilly was supposed to get Desert Q. T., but somehow their name tags got mixed up when Jerre sent them over to us in February, and we got the wrong horses," McMeans recalled. "We didn't realize that we had them mixed up until I tried to get my filly on Lasix in April and she didn't match the description on her papers. By then we had been training them for three months, so we decided to keep the ones we had."

McMeans suspects that Gillihan might have gotten the better filly, but he is by no means disappointed in Desert Q. T. In her 6 1/2-furlong debut on June 10, Desert Q. T. produced a sustained rally to dead-heat for second, finishing less than a length behind Dancing Dragon, who won in 1:16.60 on a wet-fast track.

"She broke slowly and didn't really handle the track, so I was very pleased that she was able to get up for second," said McMeans. "I think she wants more ground than she had in her first race, and that is really why we are trying her in the stakes. It's asking a lot of an inexperienced maiden to go up against the best fillies on the grounds, but she has been working very well and I think she'll give a good account of herself. I'm sure she'll try hard. There is no quit to her. I guess that's the thing about her that is most like her mama."

Weak Irish Day

The Irish Day Handicap, which boasts a purse of $40,000, could have come up a lot tougher than it did. Best Judgement, who was last year's juvenile champ at Emerald, was not nominated for the race, and two of the most accomplished of those who were nominated will not be running. Trainer Dave Forster elected to run Castle Mountain last weekend at Hastings Park, where she suffered her first defeat from four starts in the 1 1/16-mile Liberation Handicap. And trainer Steve Bullock deemed that Shandra Smiles, the winner of the Federal Way Handicap on May 6, is not yet ready to run after injuring her hip when she hit the gate at the start of the May 27 Kent Handicap.

"Her hip is fine now, but she missed two weeks of training and I just couldn't get her ready in time for this race," Bullock explained.