04/07/2004 11:00PM

Poker Brad seeks repeat win in Mile


PORTLAND, Ore. - Poker Brad put the finishing touches on his preparation for Saturday's $40,000 Portland Meadows Mile on Tuesday at Emerald Downs, working five furlongs in company with stablemate Repletion's Victory.

Under jockey Ricky Frazier, Poker Brad broke off about four lengths behind his workmate and was ridden to stay behind until the top of the stretch, where he swung out for room and powered on by to hit the wire about four lengths in front in 59.40 seconds.

"It was just what the doctor ordered," said trainer Tim McCanna. "He'll think he's King Kong now."

Poker Brad will be attempting to become the first horse since Tall Ben in 1972 to win back-to-back renewals of the Portland Meadows Mile. He won last year's edition by 1 1/4 lengths over Lethal Grande, then added a victory in the $100,000 Mt. Rainer Breeders' Cup Handicap at Emerald Downs and a second to Sky Jack in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile en route to earnings of $147,830 for the year.

McCanna hopes that Poker Brad, whom he owns in partnership with Jack and Brad Pring, John Peterson, Mitch Pierce, and former NFL star John Elway, will make most of the same stops in this year's campaign. He is beginning his quest differently from last year, however. While he went into last year's Portland Meadows Mile off a Southern California campaign, he is coming into Saturday's race off a layoff of nearly six months.

"This is the farthest I've ever run a horse off a layoff, so I've tried to make sure he is fit enough," said McCanna.

Poker Brad has worked once a week at Emerald since Feb. 24, when he went a half-mile in 46.80. Each workout he had was a bullet, and his drills include a pair of six-furlong moves and one at a mile.

"He's as ready as I can get him," said McCanna. "His exercise rider says he is stronger now than he has ever been, and I know he's feeling good. Now I just hope he gets the trip he needs."

McCanna said Poker Brad does best when he can race covered up to the quarter pole, then make one run at the leaders.

"He has a real good quarter-mile move," he said. "When the rider waits until the quarter pole to ask for it, he is pretty hard to resist."

McCanna said Poker Brad will ship to Portland Meadows on Saturday morning and return to Emerald Downs that night.

"It's the same schedule we used last year," he said. "He really ships well, so there is no need to get down there any earlier."

Yesss connections bear watching

Trainer Delmer Webb will be shooting for his third Portland Meadows Mile victory, sending out Yesss in Saturday's 37th running of the track's most prestigious race. Webb saddled Doctor Spark to win the inaugural Mile under a record 133 pounds in 1966, and he won the 1997 Mile with Flying Huey.

"Doctor Spark was way the best horse I ever touched," said Webb. "He won several stakes at Longacres, and he ran second to Viking Spirit in the Longacres Mile [in 1964]."

The trainer said Yesss reminds him more of Flying Huey, who was a one-mile specialist with an affinity for the Portland Meadows surface.

"They are very similar horses, but I think Yesss is going to have to run against a better field than the one Flying Huey beat in the Mile," he said. "I'll be tickled to death if he can hit the board against this field."

That doesn't mean Webb isn't hoping to win. Indeed, there are sound reasons to conclude that Yesss can pull off an upset on Saturday. He has already won 12 races at Portland Meadows, including six stakes, and he is at his best at a mile or farther. He had a three-race win streak broken when he finished second to Star of Elttaes in the six-furlong Governor's Speed Handicap on March 27.

"He broke slowly from the rail post, and he got too far back on a track that was holding the speed pretty good," said the trainer. "I wasn't disappointed in his effort, and I think it set him up well for the Mile. He is better this year than he has ever been, and he has the home court advantage. I think he has a chance."