02/23/2008 12:00AM

Mile to rematch Brave Hearted, Desert Sea

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PORTLAND, Ore. – The field for the March 10 running of the $30,000 Portland Meadows Mile won’t be drawn for another two weeks, but the local favorites were established in last Monday’s $20,000 Governor’s Speed Handicap at six furlongs.

They are Brave Hearted, who won the Governor’s Speed in a rapid 1:10.81 under Javier Matias, and Desert Sea, who finished like a slamming door to just miss under a comebacking Gary Baze.

Brave Hearted had enjoyed almost all of his prior success in routes, which was one reason he was dismissed at better than 7-1, and another might have been that he washed out badly in the paddock.

“He had never done that before,” said trainer Eulia Bischoff. “I would have been pretty worried about it, except that I knew we were only prepping for the Mile. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he won. It makes me feel pretty good about his chances in the Mile, but now I don’t know if I should hope he washes out before that race, too.”

Another who will look awfully good in the Mile is Desert Sea, because he flew by Brave Hearted just past the wire despite the fact Brave Hearted was finishing strongly. Desert Sea, a 5-year-old son of Seacliff, was claimed by Ron Whited’s K J Star Stable last month at Golden Gate for $16,000.

“We claimed him specifically for the Mile, and he was just prepping in the Governor’s Speed,” said Jerry Miller, who serves as Whited’s stable manager. “He is a much tougher horse at a mile, so we were thrilled by the way he ran six furlongs.”

Miller said Desert Sea, who shipped in for Monday’s race, will remain on the grounds to prepare for the Mile with trainer Robbie Baze.

It is not yet certain whether Mystic Wood, who held third after setting an extremely fast pace in the Governor’s Speed, will contest the Mile.

“There is an invitational handicap at five furlongs on the same program, and I am tempted to run him in that one,” said owner and trainer Roger Stevenson. “I think he could get a mile if everything went right for him, but there is no question he is better sprinting. I might just let him do what he does best.”

Local group negotiating for track

An investment group headed by members of the family of Jack Root is negotiating to buy Portland Meadows from Magna Entertainment, Root said. Magna announced last fall that the track was for sale. Root said their offer has been accepted in principle, and they are negotiating a purchase agreement.

“If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said the deal was a longshot to go through,” said Root, who owns a breeding farm in Newberg, Ore. “Now I’m optimistic.”

Root said his brothers Doug and Gordon are involved, as well as his father and other investors he could not yet name.

Matias completes big day

Matias, who won the Governor’s Speed on Brave Hearted, also won Monday’s sub-feature, guiding Blue Sky Holiday to her third straight win in an invitational handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and 70 yards. Blue Sky Holiday drew out to win by a commanding 12 lengths over Baby Sunshine, with heavily favored Lady’s Purse a little more than a length farther back in third.

“She gets better every time she runs,” said Matias. “She just loves to go a route of ground.”

Trainer Tom Longstaff is pointing Blue Sky Holiday, a daughter of Belmont winner Victory Gallop, toward the $20,000 Oregon Oaks at 1?1/16 miles on closing day, March 11.

One persistent rival Blue Sky Holiday will not meet in the Oaks is Lady’s Purse, who defeated her twice in sprints before losing twice to Blue Sky Holiday in routes. Trainer G.D. Khalsa said Lady’s Purse, a daughter of Bagshot who races for Michael Pollowitz, will be sent to trainer Dennis Patterson’s barn at Bay Meadows.

“She is just so much better sprinting, and there aren’t any more sprint races for her at this meeting,” said Khalsa. “It doesn’t make sense to keep her here.”

Gary Baze gets first win back

Although Gary Baze had to settle for second money in the Governor’s Speed, he notched his first win since hitting the comeback trail in Monday’s seventh race aboard the Robbie Baze-trained Panatela. It was the 3,387th win for the 52-year-old Baze in a sterling career that began in 1972 at Playfair.

Baze, who has won a record five Longacres Miles, last rode at Emerald Downs in 2005. He fractured a leg in a training mishap at Turf Paradise in 2006 and served last year as the clerk of scales at Emerald.

“I got up to 142 pounds when I wasn’t riding, but I started dieting in October and by mid-January I was light enough to ride,” said Baze. “It took me another month to get fit, and I started back at Turf Paradise last week. It feels great to be riding again. My plan right now is to stay at Turf Paradise until April 1, then go to Emerald and starting getting on horses there.”

Baze’s wife, the former Vicky Aragon, will serve as his agent.

* Longacres Mile winner The Great Face was named Washington-bred horse of the year, champion handicap male, and champion sprinter at the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association annual awards banquet Feb. 16. Other divisional awards went to Gemstone Rush for older filly or mare, Mulcahy for 3-year-old colt or gelding, Firetrail for 3-year-old filly, Margo’s Gift for 2-year-old colt or gelding, and No Constraints for 2-year-old filly.

* The 2008 renewal of the Grade 3, $400,000 Longacres Mile has been granted “Win and You’re In” status for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 24. The Longacres Mile will be one of 49 races in which the winner will automatically qualify for a berth in a designated Breeders’ Cup Championship race.