Updated on 09/17/2011 10:08AM

Local heavies gather for Preview


PORTLAND, Ore. - As its name implies, Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Preview Stakes will serve as a dress rehearsal for the $25,000 Oregon Derby at nine furlongs on April 13. All of the locally based major players will be in the field in the Preview.

Glad to Be Here has been the divisional leader since posting an authoritative win the the one-mile Oregon Futurity in December, and he will likely be favored Saturday despite being upset by a loose-on-the-lead Cee Cruiser in the March 2 McFadden Memorial at 1 1/16 miles.

"That race didn't set up for him at all," said trainer Sue Utley. "The other horse had everything his own way and he didn't stop. Our horse kept trying, and I really thought he was going to get there, but he just ran out of ground. It looks like there will be more speed in this race, and that will be to his advantage."

Utley reported that Glad to Be Here, a homebred son of Jumron who races for Burle Oakley, will be ridden by hot-riding Bob Webb in the Preview. Webb, who didn't begin riding here until January, has been winning races in bunches in recent weeks and has moved into fifth place in the Thoroughbred rider standings with 31 wins.

"Bobby started this horse out when we first brought him into training, but he got hurt and never got to ride him," Utley said. "I'm glad they are finally going to get together, because Bobby gets along really well with him."

Look for First Laugh up front

Newcomer First Laugh seems most likely to challenge Cee Cruiser for the early lead on Saturday. Trainer Jonathan Nance claimed First Laugh, a front-running son of Dr. Giggles, out of a $12,500 claiming race at Golden Gate on March 5, when he dueled throughout before dropping a nose decision in 1:37.60 for a mile.

"We just got him up here last week, so I don't know him real well yet, but he shipped fine and he worked a nice three furlongs on Tuesday," said Nance. "He is a little horse, but he is very fit and very willing. I claimed him for the derby, so I'm anxious to run him and see what we've got."

Hot pace a must for Jitterbug

A contested pace in the Preview would be advantageous to Glad to be Here, but it might be essential for Jitterburg, who came from far back to get third in the McFadden.

"He has no speed at all, so he is always at the mercy of the pace," said trainer Dick Occhiuto. "He can finish, though, and I think he'll be able to get any distance. We're in the position where we just have to roll the dice and hope things break our way.

"If they go fast up front, he has a legitimate chance to win. If it's like last time, we'll be running for third money again."

French Season has top last-out figure

Of those who skipped the McFadden, French Season may have the best chance to upset. Though he required four attempts to win a maiden race, he has shown steady improvement since getting that first win in December. He is coming off his best effort, a narrow miss to the undefeated I Won't Apollogize in a six-furlong allowance on March 9. French Season, a robust son of Crowning Season, will go into the Preview with the top last-race Beyer Speed Figure in the field, a 74.

"I'm pretty excited about him," said owner and trainer Jim Hagenauer. "He was a big, lazy 2-year-old, but he has always had talent and now he is starting to show it. I took him off the pace in his last two races and he seemed to get the hang of it last time, so I'm hoping he'll keep improving.

"He was cut out to be a nice horse. He is a half-brother to Slewker, who ran second to Jumron in the Golden State Derby and earned almost $200,000. His pedigree leans more toward endurance than speed, so I don't think the added distance is going to bother him."

Back Street Gal to go in St. Helens

Trainer Jim Fergason reported that his good 3-year-old filly Back Street Gal will run in the one-mile Mt. St. Helens Stakes on April 6. Back Street Gal has won all three of her starts, but she has not raced since the six-furlong Ms. Stakes on Feb. 8.

"She is a Washington-bred, and there just haven't been any races for her," Fergason explained. "She has been working every week, and I'm looking forward to running her again."