11/26/2003 1:00AM

Only the mile has eluded Lethal Grande


PORTLAND, Ore. - Lethal Grande, the probable favorite for Friday's $10,000 Thanksgiving Handicap at a mile, has demonstrated a good deal of versatility during a 38-race career in which he was won eight races and over $128,000. He has won in Oregon and California, on dirt and turf, and from on the lead and far off the pace.

A 4-year-old, Lethal Grande needs one more accomplishment, however, to complete his resume.

"He has never won around two turns," said trainer G. D. Khalsa. "In fact, he has never won beyond six furlongs."

It's not that Lethal Grande has run poorly at longer distances. He was second in the one-mile Oregon Futurity here at 2, and he placed in a mile turf race for $50,000 claimers and a 1 1/16-mile grass affair for $62,500 claimers in Southern California at 3. He also finished second to Poker Brad in the Portland Meadows Mile here last April.

"I'm sure he can do it under the right circumstances, and I hope he'll have the right circumstances on Friday," said Khalsa. "He loves this track, and it looks like he is probably going to be the speed of the field. He is coming off two sprint wins, and he really worked well last Friday. He galloped a mile at a two-minute lick, then he worked a half-mile in 49 seconds, and he came back like he hadn't done anything.

"I just think he is really doing well right now. If he is ever going to win at a mile, this should be the time."

Yesss gets second shot at rival

Lethal Grande's chief rival, Yesss, is also coming up to the Thanksgiving Handicap in peak form. Yesss, a 5-year-old son of Abstract, finished fast when he was beaten less than a length by Lethal Grande in a six-furlong allowance prep here Nov. 8. Yesss was making his first start since Aug. 24, when he ran third in a mile test for $25,000 claimers at Emerald Downs.

"I turned him out after his last race [at Emerald], and it seemed to do him a lot of good," said owner and trainer Delmer Webb. "He was really only away about a month, but he gained a lot of weight. He has trained better than ever since I brought him back, and now he has a prep in him.

"The rider [Twyla Beckner] felt he might have won last time if he had changed leads a little sooner, and I have to think the added distance on Friday will be in his favor."

Trainer says Quiz the Maid was due

Quiz the Maid's victory at odds of 13-1 in last Saturday's $10,000 Lassie Stakes for 2-year-old fillies was one of the biggest upsets at this young meeting, yet Jim Fergason, who trains Quiz the Maid for owner Bill Grosso, wasn't that surprised.

"I sort of saw it coming," said Fergason. "She is a half-sister to Icksnay, who earned almost $300,000, and she was improving with every race."

Quiz the Maid was coming off a 6 3/4-length win over $12,500 maidens, but the 3-5 favorite, Americas Pride, had won four races, including a pair of stakes. Just how confident could Fergason be?

"Well, I bet $100 on her to win," he said.

That might not sound like much to high rollers, but all things are relative, and the pools at Portland Meadows on Saturday were tiny. According to the tote board, the total amount wagered on Quiz the Maid to win the Lassie was $112.

Fergason might not have wagered so much if he had realized that his rider, Jaime Martinez, had never won a Thoroughbred race at a recognized track. Martinez, a 24-year-old native of Mexico, began riding at bush tracks about a year ago. He was 0-for-46 at recognized tracks before he won Friday night's nightcap aboard a Quarter Horse, Easy Starbucks.

"I didn't know that," said Fergason. "I put him on a couple of my horses last week, and I thought he rode them well. He did a nice job on Quiz the Maid, too, so maybe I'll have to stick with him."

Rider Juan Gutierrez offered no excuses for Americas Pride, who checked in sixth of nine.

"We were a little wide, but other than that there were no problems," he said. "She was just flat today."

Owner David Israel called Americas Pride's effort her most disappointing, and he noted it was her 10th start as a 2-year-old.

"Maybe the tank is empty," he said. "We were hoping to run her once more on Oregon-bred Day, but now I'm thinking she might be due for a rest."

Terleski has collarbone surgery

Rider Marijo Terleski underwent surgery last Friday to repair a broken collarbone, reported agent Keith Drebin. Terleski also suffered a fractured rib and punctured lung in the first race here Nov. 10 when her mount, Third Marine, went wrong and fell. Drebin said Terleski is expected to be sidelined for several months.