11/09/2007 1:00AM

Lady Yodeler, Silver Patrona in rubber match

EmailPORTLAND, Ore. - The filly and mare division at Portland Meadows will begin to sort itself out in Sunday's $20,000 Diane Kem Handicap at six furlongs, and it will be especially interesting to see how the 3-year-olds in the lineup fare against their elders.

In two preps for the Diane Kem, the younger set did just fine. Lady Yodeler, a 3-year-old daughter of Swiss Yodeler who was claimed for just $7,500 at Emerald Downs by owner and trainer Delmer Webb, won a 5 1/2-furlong invitational handicap for fillies and mares here on Oct. 14. She came back to run a creditable second to fellow 3-year-old Silver Patrona in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race on Oct. 30, and Webb felt she ran even better than it looked.

"She lost a shoe right out of the gate, and that sure didn't help," said the trainer. "I've never had that happen to one of my horses in 50 years of training, and the strangest thing about it was that I had her shod that morning. I thought she ran really well under the circumstances, and she is improving with every race."

Silver Patrona evened the score with Lady Yodeler in her allowance win, as she had finished a distant fourth behind Lady Yodeler in the invitational handicap. It turned out that Silver Patrona, who won all five of her sprint tries here last season, had a couple of excuses for that subpar effort.

"She tied up a bit in the post parade, then she hit the side of the gate," reported trainer Jim Fergason. "It's really no mystery that she didn't feel like running, and I think we just have to chalk that race up to experience. I was glad to see her bounce back last time."

The top older threat in the Diane Kem could be Berry Viva, who has earned $180,103 and has won her last two starts, both at Emerald Downs, at the $15,000 and $20,000 claiming levels. Owner Ron Whitted sent Berry Viva to Turf Paradise in October, but she was unable to find racing opportunities in Phoenix and was recently shipped to the barn of trainer Robbie Baze at this track.

"I've had her for about two weeks, and she seems to be doing really well," said Baze. "We're anxious to see how she fits with the stakes horses here, because if she does well she can race here all winter. She can sprint or route and she can handle an off track, so she'll be able to run in just about any race that comes along."

Filly looks best in class

On rare occasions an exceptional filly can dominate the juvenile division at a given meet, as Smarty Deb did last summer at Emerald Downs. Will Jimbos Fire Ant follow that one's example at this meeting?

It certainly seems possible in the wake of her victory in last Sunday's $21,000 Janet Wineberg Stakes at six furlongs. Jimbos Fire Ant, a daughter of Baquero from the barn of trainer Cookie Root, seemed to toy with stakes winner Ladys Purse before drawing off to score by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:12.30. That time compared favorably with the clocking of 1:12.67 recorded by Jimmie the Grouch in winning the Bill Wineberg Stakes for colts and geldings later in the day, and it was accomplished with such ease that rider Kevin Radke was mightily impressed.

"I heard the announcer say that Ladys Purse was closing in on us at the top of the lane, and I almost laughed," said Radke. "I had so much horse left at that point, and I knew she would rebreak whenever I asked her. I really think she could go anywhere in the country and win."

She won't, though, or at least not right away. Root said the main goal for Jimbos Fire Ant is the $23,675-added Os West Oregon Futurity on Oregon Championship Day, Dec. 9.

"She'll probably prep against the fillies in the Lassie Stakes on Nov. 18, then she'll try the boys in the Futurity," she said. "We think she is a special filly, and we have had the Futurity in mind for her all along. If she wins that race, we'll probably send her to California."

Jimmie the Grouch, like Jimbos Fire Ant, is undefeated after two starts. He hasn't run as fast as the filly or won by as far, but part of the reason is that he has lost ground while racing extremely wide in both of his outings.

"I really didn't think anything about it in his first race, because the rail was bad that day," said trainer Jim Fergason. "He stayed wide again in the Bill Wineberg, though, so I'll have to try to address that problem."

Lethal Grande euthanized

Brave Hearted ran the race of his career in winning last Monday's featured invitational handicap at a mile by a widening five lengths, but nobody seemed to notice. All attention was focused on Lethal Grande, who broke down on the turn and was quickly pulled up by rider Joe Crispin.

"He was just cruising, then all of a sudden he went wrong and it was all I could do to keep him on his feet," said Crispin right after the race. "It took the wind out of my sails, I can tell you that. I just pray they can save him."

The rider's prayers, and those of Lethal Grande's many admirers, went unanswered. Lethal Grande was found to have suffered catastrophic injuries to his left front leg and was euthanized about an hour later.

Lethal Grande, an 8-year-old son of Corslew, won 26 of 80 races through seven campaigns and earned $409,788, the most ever by an Oregon-bred.

New rail saves the day

Another catastrophe was averted in Sunday's first race when a 2-year-old Quarter Horse, Red Spovine, veered sharply to his left and threw rider Nikeela Black on top of the rail.

If the old tubular rail had still been in place, the consequences would have been too dire to contemplate. With the new, flat-topped rail, however, Black slid along the top for perhaps 15 feet before nearly coming to a stop, then dismounted. She rode again in the third race.