03/17/2005 1:00AM

Despite solid record, new arrival Quantis an unknown quantity

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Saturday's Governor's Speed Handicap has a lot to offer for a race with a purse of only $7,500, including a dollop of intrigue.

Included in the lineup of mostly familiar names is a newcomer who might fairly be called a mystery horse. Quantis, a 6-year-old son of Devil His Due, arrived here from Oaklawn Park a couple of weeks ago, and even his trainer, Roger Stevenson, doesn't know much about him.

"Jim Hambleton bought him privately and had him shipped to me," said Stevenson. "I think the plan is to run him here once or twice and then send him up to Hastings Park, but I haven't had a chance to talk to Jim in any detail. About all I can tell you about him is that he is a gorgeous individual. He looks like a good horse."

When handicappers peruse Quantis's past performance lines, they will quickly conclude that he can win the Governor's Speed with one of his better performances. He won 4 of 8 sprint attempts last year for trainer Cole Norman at Oaklawn and Louisiana Downs, posting Beyer Speed Figures of 99 on three occasions. In his only 2005 outing, however, Quantis showed the way through a fast half-mile in a six-furlong race for $30,000 claimers last month at Oaklawn, then tired to finish a well-beaten eighth.

"I'm not sure what happened to him that day," said Stevenson. "I called the gentleman who trained him to ask, but he never returned my call. I see that he ran a similar race after his previous layoff, though, and he came back to win by 9 1/2 lengths in his next start. I'm hoping he'll do that for me. I've been all over him. and I can't find anything wrong with him, plus he seemed to go really well when I worked him."

Quantis was credited with going a half-mile in a leisurely 51.80 seconds on March 6, but the drill didn't shed much light on his ability.

"It was foggy that morning and we really couldn't see him down the stretch," said Stevenson. "I don't know how they managed to get a time for him, but the rider said he worked well."

So how would the trainer assess his chances in the Governor's Speed?

"I'm sure he'll show speed, because he always does," said Stevenson. "Beyond that, I really don't know. I'm as curious as anybody to see how he runs."

Tough opponent in Crimson Design

Even if Quantis brings his "A" game, there is no guarantee he can beat Crimson Design. Crimson Design, 4, won his first two starts here last season by a combined 20 1/4 lengths, then won the six-furlong Auburn Stakes at Emerald Downs. In his first start this year, he cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory in a 5 1/2-furlong invitational handicap on March 6, earning a career-best Beyer Figure of 85.

"It was a big plus to be able to get a prep into him before this race, and I was really pleased with the way he ran," said trainer Jim Fergason. "He went fast, but he did everything on his own. He came out of it great, and he should run even better this time."

Fergason said he hopes to bring Crimson Design back in the $20,000 Portland Meadows Mile on April 9, then point him toward the $40,000 Seattle Handicap at six furlongs on April 24 at Emerald Downs.

Knightsbridge Road eyes local win

Neither Quantis nor Crimson Design rate as the most accomplished horse in the Governor's Speed. That distinction belongs to Knightsbridge Road, a dual stakes winner at Emerald Downs who has earned $145,798 from 4 victories, 10 seconds, and 3 thirds in 27 starts.

The 5-year-old Knightsbridge Road will be making his yearly debut in the Governor's Speed, but he has posted a steady string of fast workouts for trainer Debbie Van Horne.

"I brought him to the track in December, and he hasn't missed a workout or an oat since he got here," she said. "He really looks good, and I think he is about as tight as I can get him."

All the same, Knightsbridge Road needs to show that he can produce his best effort over this track. He disappointed as the heavy favorite in two prior appearances at Portland Meadows.

"You do have to wonder if he likes this track, but he probably wasn't at his best in his earlier races here," said Van Horne.

Van Horne is hoping for a win, but she isn't counting on it.

"He usually needs a race before showing his best stuff, and six furlongs is a little short for him," she said. "This is an awfully tough race for a $7,500 purse, too. The only good thing about it is that the purse is so small it won't count against his conditions at Emerald, even if he does happen to win."