10/26/2005 11:00PM

Fergason sending his best in Diane Kem


PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Rolland Fergason is back campaigning full time at Portland Meadows for the first time since the 1998-99 meeting, when he won the training title with what was then a record 48 wins. His brother, Jim Fergason, broke that record at the 2003-04 stand, with 50 wins.

Rolland Fergason and his wife, Debora, have started several horses here in the intervening years, but he has spent most of his time racing in Arizona and New Mexico.

"We've always kept our home here, though, and we've got mainly Oregon-breds in our stable," he said. "It just made sense for us to come back."

Fergason has 17 horses here, including some promising 2-year-olds. He said he has only one stakes-quality older runner, but that one, Corona Del Hielo, figures as the favorite in Saturday's $10,000 Diane Kem Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Corona Del Hielo, a 4-year-old daughter of Tiffany Ice who races for Joy Obrist, won her debut over this track in April 2004 by 8 1/2 lengths for trainer Bob Beckner. She was then sent to Fergason in New Mexico, where she lost three times at Ruidoso Downs before winning for a $5,500 tag at Yavapai Downs in Arizona. Transferred to Turf Paradise, she won three more races, then ran second in the Excess Energy Stakes before winning the $22,000 Bueno Stakes by leading throughout six furlongs in 1:10.40.

"During that streak she beat Marva Jean, so when Marva Jean went to Emerald and won three stakes in a row I thought we'd better follow her up there," said Fergason.

Corona Del Hielo raced twice at Emerald in July, winning a starter allowance affair by four lengths before finishing sixth in an allowance test.

"She drew the rail post for the allowance, and that can be a problem for her because she isn't really comfortable standing in the gate," said Fergason. "Then Marva Jean came and hooked her, and they sort of dueled each other into the ground."

Corona Del Hielo got a rest after that race, but she has come back strong since returning to this track in September.

"She has trained really well and she runs well fresh, so I'm hoping for a big race from her on Saturday," said Fergason. "It's hard to depend on her because she can get herself beat in the gate, but she is awfully tough to catch when she can get out there by herself and relax. Fortunately, she can usually get out there by herself. She has a ton of speed."

Corona Del Hielo might get her sternest challenge from Bullish-demands, who was the only 3-year-old nominated to the Diane Kem.

"She is a Washington-bred, and so many of the races here are for Oregon-breds that I've really got to run her whenever I have a chance," said Gene Davis, trainer of Bullishdemands. "Anyway, it's not so bad running 3-year-olds against older horses at this time of year. I think she'll fit with them."

Bullishdemands, a daughter of Bull Inthe Heather, won the Lassie Stakes here last November in just her second career start. She was then rested for the Emerald Downs meeting, where she posted a win over Victory Script and No Fences in a $30,000 claimer and a second to Golden Pine, who went on to win the John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes.

"She bled in her first start at Emerald, and then she got sick and missed some training, but I thought she ran very well in her last four starts," said Davis of Bullishdemands. "I think she proved she can be competitive with good horses."

Hard work for Eastern Accent

Emerald Downs invader Eastern Accent won last Saturday's Inaugural Handicap like a 1-2 shot should, drawing clear late to score by more than a length over a game Tamper in 1:11.65 for six furlongs. Trainer Bud Klokstad said it wasn't as easy as it looked, however.

"He was blowing awfully hard when he got back," said Klokstad. "He hadn't been to the track for five days, because they closed Emerald for training as soon as the meeting ended. I was hoping he wouldn't have to work that hard to win, but Tamper ran a heck of a race. My horse is gutsy and he did what it took, but he had to earn it."

Klokstad, who has saddled more stakes winners in Washington than any other trainer, was making a rare visit to Portland Meadows. Though he was a regular here early in his career, he said he hadn't been to this track in 23 years.

"It looks a lot better than when I was here," he said. "I thought they did a wonderful job with the turf club. I was very impressed."

* Scott Raley saddled the top two qualifiers in Sunday's trials for the Northwest Open Futurity for Quarter Horses, which will be run over 400 yards on Nov. 6. Chivato Toast and Two Dash to Fame both won their heats in 20.67.