03/24/2004 12:00AM

Extra work a tonic for Knightsbridge Road


PORTLAND, Ore. - The Governor's Speed Handicap at Portland Meadows on Saturday is mainly the same race that was called off a week ago with four entrants, but it is a little different.

The difference isn't so much the addition to the cast of City Parkway, a razor-sharp sprinter in the mid-level claiming ranks. City Parkway probably will not attract much attention in a field that includes highweights Yesss, Knightsbridge Road, and Star of Elttaes, the three most accomplished older horses in training here.

The main difference, according to the horsemen with the most at stake, is that trainer Debbie Van Horne will have had an extra week to get Knightsbridge Road ready for his 2004 debut.

"The delay probably hurts me, because I had Yesss ready to run last Saturday," said trainer Delmer Webb. "Now I have to try to hold his form for another week, and that's not always easy.

"I've got to think it helps Debbie, though. She was crowded for time but the delay gave her a chance to get another work into her horse."

Van Horne took advantage of that opportunity, drilling Knightsbridge Road six furlongs in 1:16.80 on Saturday morning.

"It was just what I wanted," she said. "The time was slow, but he finished up strong and he wasn't even breathing hard when he came back. I think it was just what he needed to finish off his preparation. I was going to use this race as a prep for the Portland Meadows Mile, and it's still a prep, but now it's a prep he has a pretty good chance of winning. I think he's ready to go."

That's bad news for trainer Steve Fisher, who was counting on Star of Elttaes's fitness edge over Knightsbridge Road.

"I thought Star of Elttaes was probably the third-best horse when I entered him the first time," said Fisher. "But I thought Yesss might want a little more ground and Knightsbridge Road might be a little short. I thought that gave our horse an opportunity to pull off an upset, but I'm not sure that opportunity still exists."

Trainer nails Quarter Horse derby

Leading Quarter Horse trainer John Harris enjoyed one of the better days of his stellar meeting on Friday, when he sent out A Special Martini and Judges Effort to finish first and second in the $16,120 Portland Meadows QH Derby at 400 yards.

A Special Martini, one of three fillies in the field of nine, outdueled her stablemate by a head in 20.59 seconds with Jockey Flip Nollar in the irons. She was the 5-2 second choice to Heza Dapper Dandy, who finished in a dead heat for third with Eyes Okey.

"She's an awfully nice filly," said Harris, who trains A Special Martini for owners Donald and Peggy Boyle. "I felt she gave us our best chance to win this race, and I'm just really pleased that Judges Effort ran well enough to get second."

Nollar said the race probably shouldn't have been as close as it was.

"She broke fast, but then she fell to the inside and it took me a good 50 yards to straighten her out," he said. "She made things a little harder than they needed to be, but she proved she was best."

Harris purchased A Special Martini, an Alberta-bred daughter of Special Leader and Chica Martini, by the Thoroughbred sire Three Martinis, through a yearling sale in Canada in 2002.

"I wanted something for the $100,000 Canada Cup Futurity at Lethbridge, and she was eligible," he recalled. "She looked a little slight, but I remembered that Leon Defoe used to run her mother and she was a nice mare. I actually couldn't get her bought at the sale itself, but afterward I worked out a deal with the breeder and we brought her home."

Harris said A Special Martini, who finished third in the Canada Cup Futurity, will likely have a busy spring and summer campaign. He plans to ship her throughout the West to compete in challenge races and derbies.

Scarem in, Dig That Rhythm iffy

Two possible contenders for the $20,000 Oregon Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 3 emerged from Saturday's racing, but it remains to be seen whether both will make the final field.

Trainer Nick Chalich confirmed that Scarem is derby-bound after winning a six-furlong allowance race over the well-regarded Anita Rocket by nearly three lengths. Scarem is undefeated after two starts, including a 9 3/4-length victory in maiden special weight company in his debut.

Scarem may or may not last the derby distance, but there is little question he will show the way. He demonstrated an uncanny ability to pop the gate in both starts, opening up daylight leads in the opening strides.

Trainer Nick Lowe would also like to run Santa Anita invader Dig That Rhythm in the derby, but the colt may not have enough earnings after running second in a maiden special weight test on Sunday. He was beaten 6 1/4 lengths by Crimson Design, and Dig That Rhythm did not find his best stride until the late stretch. He was in front a sixteenth of a mile past the wire.

The derby field will be limited to 12, with preference determined by total earnings. Dig That Rhythm has earned only $800 from his four starts. He was excluded from the Preview Stakes field here on March 13 when 12 horses with higher earnings were entered.