02/11/2005 12:00AM

Quartern gets to show she can handle route

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Quartern, the undisputed leader of the local 3-year-old filly division following her 7 3/4-length win in last weekend's six-furlong Ms. Stakes at Portland Meadows, will attempt to extend her dominion to route distances.

Trainer Ben Root said that Quartern, a daughter of Danjur who races for Al and Jodi Peterson, will test her route ability in the one-mile Mary Goldblatt Stakes on March 5. If all goes well, she will go on to the one-mile Mt. St. Helens Stakes on March 26 and the 1 1/16-mile Oregon Oaks on April 16.

"I always questioned whether she would go long because she is so short, but I'm getting more and more confident," said Root. "She is really very controllable in a race, and she can really kick it in when you ask her to run. It sure didn't look like she was getting tired at the end of her last race."

Quartern has now won 3 of her 4 starts for the Petersons, who obtained her almost by accident. Al Peterson, a television reporter, had become friendly with breeder Marie Jones when he interviewed her for a story on her horse Prime Timber at the Kentucky Derby.

"Marie was looking to sell this little filly and she asked me what I thought she would sell for," Peterson recalled. "I said I would pay such-and-such amount for her, but I was speaking theoretically. Marie thought I was speaking literally, and she said 'Okay, she's yours.' I didn't really have the money, but I guess I was too embarrassed to back out. I borrowed it from my wife and bought her."

He doesn't regret the purchase.

"She is by far the best horse I've ever had, and she is getting better with every race," he said. "We're really excited about her."

Horse for the course returns

Trainer Delmer Webb saw his stable star Yesss go to the sidelines with a hip injury last month, and that made the recent return of Cee Cruiser all the more timely. Webb trained the 5-year-old Cee Cruiser to three stakes wins here in 2003. After he posted a 9 1/4-length win in the 1 1/16-mile His Stakes on Oregon Championship Day in December of that year, however, owners Troy Lange and Dan Miller elected to send Cee Cruiser in search of greener pastures at Turf Paradise.

After 14 months, five races, and no wins, Cee Cruiser was returned to Webb's care early last week and promptly picked up where he left off, winning a six-furlong allowance race last Saturday by more than four lengths.

"It's great to have him back, and I think he is glad to be back," Webb said. "Some horses just love this track. Flying Huey was that way back when he was racing, and Yesss is that way now. I think this horse is the same."

Cee Cruiser has now won 6 of his 10 starts at Portland Meadows for nearly $30,000 in earnings. He averaged only $262 per start in Phoenix.

Webb said that Yesss, a winner of 14 races and $106,212, is recovering nicely at the trainer's farm in Turner, Ore., where he exercises daily on a king-sized hotwalker with 50-foot arms that the trainer built himself.

"There is a track under the hotwalker that is 100 feet in diameter and the hotwalker is motorized, so I can set it for whatever speed I want," he said. "It gives me a way to exercise him without the weight of a rider on his back."

Webb hopes to have Yesss back in time to contest the Portland Meadows Mile on April 9. If he doesn't make it, the trainer still might not be out of options.

"Who knows?" he said. "Maybe Cee Cruiser can win it for us."

Crimson Design targets Speed

Another candidate for this year's Portland Meadows Mile is Crimson Design, who won his first two starts here last year by a combined 20 lengths before winning the Auburn Stakes at Emerald Downs. Trainer Jim Fergason said the 4-year-old Crimson Design is back in training.

"He has worked twice now, and I hope to run him in the Governor's Speed Handicap [on March 12] and the Portland Meadows Mile," Fergason said. "I gave him a nice, long vacation after the Emerald Downs meeting, and he seems to be coming back really well."

Crimson Design's little brother, the 3-year-old J. D.'s Date, collected his maiden win in his third start here last Saturday, coming from off the pace to defeat maiden special weight runners by 1 3/4 lengths with five furlongs in 1:01.17.

"I'm really pleased with the way he is coming along," said Fergason. "He is a tall, long-striding horse and he really doesn't have Crimson Design's quickness, but I think he'll do very well going long."