01/12/2006 1:00AM

My Friend Dave faces tall order in Tall Ben

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PORTLAND, Ore. - My Friend Dave lost his first three starts at Portland Meadows last season, but once he started winning he didn't stop. As a 5-year-old, he ran off three straight stakes wins before dropping a heartbreaking nose decision to Demon Warlock in the climactic Portland Meadows Mile, and his exploits earned horse of the meeting honors.

In like fashion, My Friend Dave dropped his first three decisions at the current stand before winning the Oregon Sprint Championship in his last outing on Dec. 31. Trainer Corky Caron hopes he can once again keep the ball rolling in Saturday's $7,500 Tall Ben Invitational Handicap at a mile.

"He broke his knee when he was a young horse, and ever since then I've been reluctant to bear down on him in the morning," said Caron. "As a result, it takes him a few races to get into top shape. I think he is back where I want him now, and I'm looking for him to be real tough for the rest of the meeting."

My Friend Dave will get a stern test in the Tall Ben. While he beat a modest field of Oregon-breds in the Sprint Championship, he will meet divisional leader Tamper on Saturday. Tamper is coming off back-to-back wins in the one-mile Polynesian Flyer Invitational Handicap and the 1 1/16-mile William Kyne Handicap, races in which My Friend Dave finished third and second. Though he has not raced since Nov. 26, Tamper has been working like gangbusters for trainer Jim Fergason.

"He went five furlongs in 1:01.20 Saturday morning, and he looked really sharp," said Fergason. "He has been getting better with each race, and his confidence is sky-high now. I don't see why he wouldn't run another big race."

Lawanda settles in

Lawanda, the runaway winner of last Saturday's Mt. St. Helens Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, will likely remain at Portland Meadows for the remainder of the meeting, trainer Jonathan Nance said. She had been in training with Tommy Roberts at Golden Gate Fields, where she ran fourth to maiden special weight company in November, before arriving here last week.

"Golden Gate was a little too stressful for her," said Nance. "She is a nervous filly, and at this point she seems to need a more relaxing environment. I'll probably run her a couple more times here, and I'm hoping that by the time Emerald opens she'll have enough seasoning and maturity to handle the racing up there."

Lawanda is a regally bred daughter of Pioneering and Come On Joy, a stakes winner of $106,000. Her half-sister R Lady Joy won the Delaware Oaks and the Florida Oaks and earned $571,000. Nevertheless, Nance and partner Allen Floyd were able to buy Lawanda as a yearling at Keeneland's November sale for just $4,500.

"Her sister was just getting started at that time, so nobody knew about her," explained Nance. "Also, she had a scar on her left ankle. I still don't know how she got the scar, but it has never bothered her. She showed a lot of ability right from the start, and I think she has a very promising future."

Big matchup delayed

Last Sunday's anticipated showdown between My Crowning Glory and One Fast Trick in the 350-yard Director's Handicap failed to materialize when One Fast Trick, a winner of 8 of 9 starts at Portland Meadows, developed an abscess in her foot on race day. One Fast Trick's owner and trainer, Ron Raley, said it was simply a case of bad timing, and that One Fast Trick shouldn't miss another start.

In One Fast Trick's absence, My Crowning Glory posted her seventh straight win at Portland Meadows, defeating Neava Boots by a head in 18.23 seconds.

"I would have liked to see One Fast Trick run, but it certainly made our job easier when she stayed in the barn," said My Crowning Glory's owner and trainer, Wayne Burger. "I'm sure they will meet somewhere down the line, and it should be worth seeing when they do."

The next opportunity for My Crowning Glory and One Fast Trick to get together will be the $6,000 PM Championship at 440 yards Feb. 19.

George named to racing commission

Gov. Christine Gregoire has appointed Paul George of Yakima to the Washington Horse Racing Commission. George will fill a vacancy created when Deanna Oppenheimer resigned last summer to pursue other opportunities.

George, a familiar and popular figure in Northwest racing, was for many years the sports editor of the Yakima Herald-Republic, then the general manager for Yakima Meadows. He later moved to Billings, Mont., to serve as director of communications for United Tote, a national supplier of computerized wagering systems.

Moving back to Yakima in 1996, George served as simulcast director at Yakima Meadows until the track closed in 1998. He has since served four years on the Yakima City Council and two years as mayor of Yakima.