07/26/2004 11:00PM

Inspiring victory sends Poker Brad back to Mile

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AUBURN, Wash. - Poker Brad will go in the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 22.

Poker Brad, who finished second to Sky Jack in last year's Mile, earned his berth with a repeat victory in Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap, scoring by two lengths over Mr. Makah in a stakes record 1:46.60.

A 6-year-old son of Go For Gin, Poker Brad needed just such a performance to earn a return ticket to the Mile. He was coming off an uncharacteristically flat effort, finishing fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Independence Day Handicap. Two weeks before, he suffered a head loss to Demon Warlock in the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap. Trainer Tim McCanna took the blame for Poker Brad's poor showing in the Independence Day.

"He was coming back so quickly after running such a hard race that I decided to baby him into it, and that was a mistake," said McCanna. "He needed to train harder. He's just that kind of horse. You really can't do enough with him."

McCanna was careful not to make the same mistake twice, giving Poker Brad two brisk interim drills that included a six-furlong move in 1:09.80 on July 19. Poker Brad responded with one of his best efforts.

Under regular rider Ricky Frazier, Poker Brad remained four lengths back as longshot Slewicide Cruise pushed the favored Gratitude Attack through a hot half-mile in 45 seconds. Poker Brad then closed the gap to two lengths after six furlongs in 1:09 and then unleashed a withering quarter-mile move that carried him to victory.

"Ricky rode him just right," said McCanna. "He only has a quarter-mile move, but he can really blister that last quarter mile if you reserve his speed."

McCanna says he feels that Poker Brad's move is even more effective at a mile than it is at 1 1/8 miles, and he hopes Poker Brad will demonstrate that in the Longacres Mile.

"I'm thrilled to be able to bring him back in the Mile," said McCanna. "It's always a tough race, but he belongs. He's the real deal."

Poker Brad's win was McCanna's third victory from three starters Sunday, and it lifted him to the lead in his quest for a fifth straight training title at Emerald. After Sunday's 57th day of racing, McCanna had 31 wins, one more than both Frank Lucarelli and Jim Penney and four more than Sharon Ross.

Cascade Corona proves she's best

Cascade Corona solidified her spot atop the track's older filly and mare division with a game score over Canadian invader Hanselina in Saturday's Boeing Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. Though dealt a demanding pace-pressing trip from the inside under regular rider Gallyn "Booger" Mitchell, Cascade Corona wore down Lasting Code in the stretch and retained enough to stave off the late charges of Hanselina and Aunt Sophie and prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:42.40.

"It wasn't an easy race for her, but she was well prepared and Booger did what he had to do to win," said trainer Jim Penney.

Penney said Cascade Corona, who has now won four of her seven starts, exited her outing in good order and will be pointed for the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff at a mile on Longacres Mile Day, Aug. 22.

Feuerborn fillies break through

Owners Mike and Amy Feuerborn enjoyed a banner day Saturday, when their juvenile filly A Classic Life won her debut against maiden special weight company by 4 1/4 lengths and their 3-year-old filly Bianconi Baby scored by 12 1/2 lengths in a mile allowance race.

Both a Classic Life, a stoutly bred daughter of grass champion Sky Classic, and Bianconi Baby, a daughter of Bianconi, are trained by Grant Forster. Assistant trainer John Holmes said both fillies will be pointed toward stakes engagements.

"We've been high on both of those fillies all along, but it's good to see them run the way we thought they could run," he said. "It was especially good to see A Classic Life run so well at 5 1/2 furlongs, because she is bred to get better with distance."

A Classic Life may run in an allowance race before going in the $50,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at a mile on Aug. 28, and Bianconi Baby will go next in the $100,000 Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks at nine furlongs on Aug. 21.

* True Confidence, a promising young Mr. Prospector stallion who stands at Oakhurst Farm in Newberg, Ore., got his first winner on Sunday. Amelia True Heart won her debut for trainer Linda Northam by nearly 10 lengths over $16,000 maiden 2-year-old fillies.

* Kevin Radke, who won the last two riding titles at Emerald, said he expects to be sidelined for about six more months while recovering from wrist injuries suffered earlier this year in California. Radke said he will return to Emerald in 2005.