12/08/2006 12:00AM

Rich reward at stake for Ex Mountain Cop


PORTLAND, Ore. - The biggest payday in the history of Oregon racing awaits Ex Mountain Cop on Sunday. If he can win the $48,000 Os West Oregon Futurity at a mile, thus completing a sweep of the six-furlong OTBA Sales Stakes and the futurity to earn a $30,000 bonus, his owners will collect nearly $57,000. That will eclipse the $55,000 earned by Present Value when he won the $100,000 Portland Meadows Mile under Bill Shoemaker in 1989.

With that much cash at stake, you might think Nance would be feeling considerable pressure. Perhaps he will on race day, but he was relaxed and smiling after watching Ex Mountain Cop work a half-mile in 49 on Monday morning.

"That was a very good work for him, because he is usually lazy in the morning," said Nance. "He should be ready now. All that is left for me to do is to wait and hope for rain. He loves a wet track."

Rain or shine, Ex Mountain Cop figures to go off as the odds-on favorite after winning his last three starts by a combined 19 lengths. His last three Beyers are 66, 77, and 83; none of his challengers has earned a figure higher than 59. There is an element of suspense, however, because all of Ex Mountain Cop's wins have come at six furlongs. He did run third in a one-mile maiden race at Emerald Downs, however, and Nance said that effort was encouraging.

"I think he showed he can get a mile," said Nance. "That mile race at Emerald was his best race up until that time, and I know he is a lot better now. Anyway, I'm not sure it will really matter if he can get a mile. If he runs the first six furlongs the way he did in his last two races, he might be able to gallop home in front."

Lethal Grande goes for a first

With 20 wins from 66 starts and $346,470 in earnings, Lethal Grande is among the most accomplished Oregon-breds of all-time. And with a record of 7-4-2 from 13 starts at Portland Meadows, including four stakes wins, he is certainly a horse for this course.

However, there is one local accomplishment missing from Lethal Grande's resume: He has never won a race on Oregon Championship Day. He was upset at 3-10 in the 2001 Os West Oregon Futurity, then ran second at 2-5 in the 2003 Oregon Sprint Championship.

Lethal Grande will try to correct that when he runs in Sunday's renewal of the Oregon Sprint Championship, for which he again figures to be strongly favored. This time he will be saddled by Tom Longstaff, who claimed Lethal Grande for $32,000 at Hastings Park on Aug. 19. Lethal Grande has since run three times, finishing third in this track's Inaugural Handicap, fourth in a $35,000 optional claiming test at Hastings, and first in a one-mile Invitational Handicap here Nov. 20.

"We originally claimed him with a couple of Hastings stakes in mind, but the track up there got to be too hard for him and we had to change plans," said Longstaff. "He just loves the track here, so we'll probably leave him here for the whole meeting and point him toward the Portland Meadows Mile."

As for Sunday, Longstaff said he expects Lethal Grande's best effort.

"I thought he came out of his last race very well," said Longstaff. "He is plenty fit, so I have just been trying to freshen him up for the return to sprinting. I'll give him an open gallop on Thursday, and he should be good to go."

Brave Hearted has recency edge

Among the most intriguing matchups on the Oregon Championship Day program will be Tom Two and Brave Hearted in the $10,000 His Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. Tom Two, a six-figure earner with five stakes wins to his credit, is the class of the field. However, he has not raced since last May. Brave Hearted, on the other hand, improved his record to three wins in five starts after an eight-length score over allowance rivals at a mile Nov. 21. Still, he is unproven against stakes company.

At least Eulia Bischoff, who trains Brave Hearted, said she knows exactly what she will be up against Sunday. Bishoff trained Tom Two for owner and trainer Delmer Webb at Emerald Downs as a 2-year-old, saddling him for his first stakes win in Emerald's Strong Ruler Stakes.

"I have a lot of respect for Tom Two, and I'm sure he will be very tough if he is ready," said Bischoff. "I'd be more afraid of him if he had a race or two into him, though. My horse is dead fit, and I'm hoping that gives him an edge."

Sneak Bac sneaking up

Is there a new leader in the local Quarter Horse ranks? My Crowning Glory, who won 11 of 12 starts at Portland Meadows from January 2005 to April of this year, has finished fourth, second, and third in three starts at this stand. Her last two losses came at the hands of Sneak Bac, who won last Monday's 400-yard Columbia River Handicap by 2 3/4 lengths under rider Joe Crispin.

Sneak Bac, a 4-year-old daughter of Splash Bac who is trained by Scott Raley, has now won 4 of her last 5 starts.

"She has really come to hand, and Joe Crispin deserves a lot of the credit for that," said Raley. "She has a tendency to stumble out of the gate, but Joe has been able to pick her head up and prevent her from stumbling. Now she is starting to show what she can do."