11/23/2007 1:00AM

Radke right at home in South Korea

EmailPORTLAND, Ore. - It was apparently a case of love at first sight for jockey Kevin Radke and Seoul Race Course.

Radke, who has been riding at Portland Meadows this season, was back in town last weekend after spending the previous weekend at the South Korean track to participate in an international jockey challenge. Radke, who won riding titles at Emerald Downs in 2002 and 2003 and at Golden Gate in 2004, was selected by the Jockeys' Guild to represent the U.S. against riders from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea in the two-day, four-race competition. He did so ably, notching a win and a fourth while finishing behind South African rider Gerrit Schlechter, who took down the top prize of $20,000. For Radke, it was an experience to remember.

"It was awesome," he said. "On Saturday there were 50,000 people in the stands and on Sunday there were even more. When I won my race, it felt like winning the Kentucky Derby. And they treated the foreign riders royally. We each had our own interpreter, in addition to an interpreter who works full time in the jocks' room. They have three foreign riders riding at their regular meeting, but one of them will be leaving when his work permit expires in February."

Guess who will be taking that rider's place.

"They invited me to come back and ride for four months, beginning in February," Radke said. "I jumped at the opportunity. They love racing there, and they treat the riders with so much respect. I tell you, it opened my eyes to how badly we treat foreign riders in this country. If they can't speak English, they are out of luck. There they do everything they can to help the visiting riders."

Radke said racing at Seoul Race Course didn't require much adjustment. They race counterclockwise, just as in this country, and on dirt.

"Actually, they have two sand tracks with moveable rails," he said. "The race I won was at a mile and an eighth, and it started on the outer track and ended on the inner track. That was a little different, but it was an easy adjustment. I think I'm really going to enjoy riding there on a regular basis."

Derby Rider back at the scene of his big win

Quick, who won last season's Portland Meadows Mile? Even regular fans might have to hesitate before answering that question, because Derby Rider disappeared from the local scene shortly after shipping in to defeat the venerable Lethal Grande in the 2007 Mile in February.

Derby Rider, an Argentine-bred 8-year-old, will return to the scene of his biggest win in an invitational handicap at a mile and 70 yards scheduled for Monday. So what has he been up to?

"He ran a couple of times in Boise, once at Waitsburg, and twice more at Assiniboia Downs," said trainer Jason Homer. "He ran okay, but he didn't win and I turned him out in August. He has been training here this fall, and he seems to be doing well. I'm not sure he is ready to go around two turns in his first race back, but it does no good to sprint him, so we'll take a crack at this race. It will be good to get a race into him. I hope to run him in the Mile again in March, so it is time to get him going again."

Among those expected to line up against Derby Rider is Alabama Rain, an earner of more than $430,000 in Canada. Alabama Rain, a 5-year-old son of Vying Victor, has won 7 of 29 starts, including four stakes at Hastings and the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands. He was winless in seven starts in Canada this year, so trainer Lance Giesbrecht sent him to Tom Longstaff's barn at this track in an attempt to change his luck.

"My wife used to rub him for Lance, so that's the connection," said Longstaff. "Lance called and asked if I would take him, and I said I would be glad to have him. Now that Lethal Grande is gone, I don't have a handicap horse here. Alabama Rain has a few problems, but nothing we can't work with. I think he'll love this track, and he'll really love the company. He is still a very nice horse."

Futurity may be rubber match for two fillies

The $40,000-added Os West Oregon Futurity on Oregon Championship Day, Dec. 9, is shaping up to be a tale of two fillies. Jimbos Fire Ant became the early favorite after defeating Lady's Purse by 2 1/2 lengths in the Nov. 4 Janet Wineberg at six furlongs, but Lady's Purse evened the score with a neck upset over the heavily favored Jimbos Fire Ant in Sunday's six-furlong Lassie Stakes.

It was the second stakes win for Lady's Purse, who won last May's Kindergarten Stakes for owner Mike Pollowitz. Trainer G.D. Khalsa gave much of the credit for her latest victory to rider Joe Crispin.

"I think Joe really made a difference," said the trainer. "Jimbos Fire Ant was getting out a little turning for home and we could have been carried out right along with her, but Joe cut to the rail and that was probably the winning move. Lady's Purse likes to run on the rail anyway, and she saved a lot of ground down there."

Jimbos Fire Ant also ducked out when hit left-handed by rider Kevin Radke at midstretch, and that may have been where she grabbed a quarter. She emerged from the race with a gash in her heel and a small chunk of her hoof missing.

"She was favoring that foot in the test barn, so I think it affected her," said trainer Cookie Root. "She should be okay, though. The big danger is infection, and we got on it right away. We just need to keep it clean and dry, and it should heal in a week. We'll be watching her very closely, but we're optimistic that she'll be fine for the Futurity."

Monday's six-furlong Columbia River Stakes for colts and geldings didn't produce a strong Futurity contender, as it was dominated by the Kentucky-bred Dixieland Easy, who won by 4 1/4 lengths while being geared down by jockey Kevin Radke.

Trained by Robbie Baze, Dixieland Easy will either be shipped to Arizona for a Turf Paradise campaign or will be turned out to await the Emerald Downs meeting, according to owner Ron Whited.