02/18/2005 12:00AM

Dronen aware Freedom Fair has his limits


PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Sam Dronen has a new plan for Freedom Fair, who pulled off a stunning $63 upset over some of the quickest sprinters on the grounds in a five-furlong invitational handicap here last Sunday.

From now on, the trainer intends to run Freedom Fair as short as he can.

"He just can't go six furlongs," said the trainer. "I've tried to teach him to relax and save something for the stretch, but he can't stand to see another horse in front of him. He uses himself up early, and there is no use fighting it. I think five furlongs is about ideal for him, and 5 1/2 furlongs is as far as he can go."

Freedom Fair, a 4-year-old son of Honour and Glory from the Deputy Minister mare Pretty Keane, had posted both of his previous victories at 5 1/2 furlongs, and Dronen said he will be entered back in an invitational handicap at that distance in three weeks.

Going just five furlongs on Sunday, Freedom Fair dueled with the very fast Scarem into the stretch, then drew off to a 4 1/4-length victory in 59.52 seconds. Swing the Belle, the only filly in the field of eight, finished second to complete a $2 exacta that paid $617.80, and the favored Cee Cruiser checked in third for a $930 trifecta.

Looking at all the big numbers on the tote board, Dronen could only shake his head.

"I was hoping he'd run third or fourth," said the trainer. "I didn't have a penny on him."

Quiz the Maid looks back to old self

Trainer Jim Fergason was relieved to see Quiz the Maid return to her best form in last Saturday's Sweetheart Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. Quiz the Maid, a 4-year-old daughter of Basket Weave, began this meeting with three straight victories, two of them in stakes. She was forced to jump a fallen horse on the first turn of the one-mile City of Roses Handicap, however, and didn't seem quite the same horse in two subsequent efforts, both second-place finishes to Chancy Chancy in invitational handicaps at a mile.

"I think it was mainly a matter of regaining her confidence after the spill," said Fergason. "That wasn't the only thing. It also helped that the rider got her back early in the Sweetheart, and it definitely helped that Pete's Dolly pushed Chancy Chancy along on the pace. The confidence thing worried me the most, though, and I was just glad to see she has got it back."

Quiz the Maid made an explosive move on the second turn en route to a seven-length victory over Pete's Dolly in 1:48.47, but rider Javier Ortega said he noticed a difference in his mount well before he asked her to run.

"She didn't run badly in her last two races, but I had to make her run," said the rider. "This time she was dragging me up to the leaders. She was her old self again."

Three firsts in one

Apprentice Jerry Remer, trainer Sheila Knowles, and Mr. Mayday all got their first wins on Saturday, when Remer booted the Knowles-trained Mr. Mayday to an easy 5 1/2-length victory over $3,200 maidens in the fifth race.

Mr. Mayday, who paid $66.60 to win, was Remer's 26th mount. Remer, a 28-year-old native of Virginia, began riding at this meeting after serving several years as an exercise rider.

"I've wanted to ride since I was in high school, but it wasn't until about three years ago that I started to give it serious consideration," he said. "It's a wonderful feeling to win a race. I hope this is the start of a lot more to come."

Remer notched his second victory on Monday, riding the Bill Kagee-trained Silkys Magic to victory in the nightcap at odds of 12-1.

Two changes of pace

Two significant streaks were broken last weekend, as Rose's Thistle collected her maiden victory after seven straight seconds on Saturday, then Big Al T. ran third on Sunday after posting five straight wins.

Big Al T., who began his streak at the $2,500 claiming level, was finally beaten by Something Clever and Mt. Vista in an $8,000 claiming event at six furlongs.

"I was really hoping he could keep it going," said trainer Jonathan Nance. "I won six races in a row a couple of years ago with Capable Quest, and I was trying to break that record. I really thought he'd win."

As for Rose's Thistle, trainer Dave Runyon confessed he was beginning to wonder if she would ever win. In fact, she barely held on to prevail by a nose over Morning Mocha in a maiden special weight test for 3-year-old fillies.

"She has a tendency to pull herself up after she makes the lead," said Runyon. "She thinks her job is over if she gets to the front in the stretch. She was pretty proud of herself after she finally won, though, so maybe she knows what it is about now."