Updated on 09/17/2011 10:18AM

'Glad to Be' a derby winner

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PORTLAND, Wash. - Glad to Be Here made an inauspicious start to his racing career at Portland Meadows on opening day, Oct. 19, when he finished sixth, beaten 19 lengths by Stately Jack Flash in a maiden special weight sprint.

He has come an awfully long way since then.

Glad to Be Here, a Jumron colt who races for breeder Burle Oakley, scored his maiden win in his next start, then ran third in the six-furlong Bill Wineberg before snatching top Oregon-bred 2-year-old honors with a surprise win in the Dec. 14 Oregon Futurity at a mile.

Picking up in his 3-year-old debut where he left off, Glad to Be Here won an allowance race at a mile in January. He lost little stature when he ran second to a loose-on-the-lead Cee Cruiser in the 1 1/16-mile McFadden Memorial, nor when he again finished second to Cee Cruiser while bucking a potent speed bias in the March 22 Preview Stakes at the same distance.

With Cee Cruiser sidelined for last Sunday's climactic $25,000 Oregon Derby at nine furlongs, Glad to Be Here was made a solid 7-5 favorite over seven rivals and ran like an overlay under a flawless ride by Danny Boag.

Glad to Be Here stalked in fourth position as Stately Jack Flash, First Laugh, and Lacenter Flash volleyed for the lead through six furlongs in 1:12.06, then swept to the front approaching the stretch and drew out to score by nearly three lengths in 1:52.80. Lacenter Flash held on for second and longshot French Season got up for third.

"I was going to wait a little longer, but I swung him out for room at the three-eighths pole and he just towed me to the front," said Boag. "We ended up going awfully wide around the second turn, but I knew it wouldn't matter. He was just much the best today."

Trainer Sue Utley said she had not planned past the derby, but that Glad to Be Here will get at least a brief respite.

"After what he has accomplished here, I think he deserves a little rest," she said.

Getting in Mile shape

Two of the main local hopes for the $35,000 Portland Meadows Mile on April 27 logged prep races here over the weekend, and both pleased their connections despite differing results.

Trainer Delmer Webb couldn't help being happy with Yesss, who won his fourth straight route in a soft one-mile allowance on Saturday. Bet down to 4-5, Yesss led throughout and won by six lengths in 1:37.80, the fastest one-mile clocking at the meeting.

Chinquapin Charlie, the defending Mile champion, raced for the first time since June in a six-furlong allowance race on Sunday and finished fifth, beaten just over seven lengths after trailing by 17 lengths early. The stretch-running Chinquapin Charlie galloped out strongly, hitting the front a sixteenth past the wire.

"It was what I was hoping for," said trainer Steve Fisher. "He wasn't going to win at six furlongs, but he finished fast, and the race should move him forward. I actually like the way he is coming up to the Mile."

The third strong contender among the local Mile hopefuls, Lethal Grande, will not race again before the big race. In his last outing in the Governor's Speed Handicap on March 30, Lethal Grande set a track record for six furlongs of 1:09.

"He came out of that race thinking he was King Kong, and he has been training great since then," said trainer G. D. Khalsa. "He doesn't need any speed work, so I'm going to bring him up to the Mile mainly with long gallops.

"I know some nice horses are planning to ship in, but I can't worry about that. My horse is doing great, so bring 'em on."

* Leading rider Juan Gutierrez will coast to his first local jockey title, having departed last week to gallop horses at Emerald Downs. Gutierrez ended his Portland meet with 93 victories and remains 44 ahead of his closest pursuer, Ron Keckler.

* Chinquapin Charlie spoiled a perfect day for rider Frank Gonsalves, who won with his other three mounts on Sunday. Gonsalves, who is returning to the Northwest after riding last year in Phoenix and Colorado, was prepping for the Emerald Downs meet that starts Saturday.

* Trainer Jim Fergason reported that his undefeated Back Street Gal will pass Emerald's opening-day feature, the U.S. Bank Stakes, in favor of this track's Oregon Oaks on Sunday. Back Street Girl will seek a fifth straight win in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks.