03/31/2004 12:00AM

A sizzling Star of Elttaes set for Mile


PORTLAND, Ore. - Before Saturday's $10,000 Governor's Speed Handicap, trainer Steve Fisher said Star of Elttaes would have to be "pretty shiny" in the race to be considered for the $40,000 Portland Meadows Mile on April 10.

He was incandescent.

Under a confident ride from jockey Juan Gutierrez, Star of Elttaes cruised to the lead after a half-mile in 45.86 seconds and quickly drew clear to score by three lengths over the favored Yesss, who came from seven lengths back to get second. The pacesetting City Parkway held third over Lovers Son, while the second choice, Knightsbridge Road, tired to finish fifth and last in his seasonal debut. Star of Elttaes's final time of 1:10.73 was the fastest six-furlong clocking of the meeting.

"I guess I'll at least have to nominate him for the Mile now," said Fisher. "He ran even better than I hoped he would. It looked like he did it pretty easy."

Star of Elttaes, a 6-year-old son of Star de Naskra, spent most of last year in the middle claiming ranks, winning for $10,000 and $16,000 at Emerald Downs before being claimed by current owner Amy Thurmond out of a win for $8,000 at Hastings Park in November.

Given a freshener and sent to Fisher's barn at Portland Meadows, Star of Elttaes posted a string of bullet workouts before prepping for the Governor's Speed with a sharp allowance win in February.

"He just handles this track so well," said Fisher. "I could see it when he first started working here. The book on him was always that he couldn't handle off tracks, but he handles this track even when it's wet. He just seems to skip over it."

Star of Elttaes will very likely try to parlay his affinity for the local surface into a third straight victory. Although the Portland Meadows Mile is run at a distance he has not handled in four previous attempts, his rider feels he will handle it now.

"The way he finished today it seemed like he would go a mile with no problem," said Gutierrez. "I had a lot of horse left at the end."

Trainer Delmer Webb said Yesss also earned a berth in the Mile, the meet's richest and most prestigious race.

"I would have liked to win, but I'm not really disappointed," said Webb. "It was tough to come from that far back today, but he finished well and the effort should set him up nicely for the Mile."

Knightsbridge Road was also prepping for the Mile, but his participation might be in doubt after his uncharacteristically dull showing in the Governor's Speed. Rider Bob Webb said he struggled with the track early, then tired in the stretch.

The local Mile hopefuls are expected to be challenged by as many as a half-dozen shippers, including defending champion Poker Brad, who worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.20 on a muddy track at Emerald Downs last Friday.

Quiz the Maid going for sweep

There are only four open stakes here for fillies who begin the meeting as 2-year-olds, and last year trainer Jim Fergason swept them all with eventual horse of the meeting Back Street Gal. Now he is three-quarters of the way to repeating that feat with Quiz the Maid, who came off a seven-week layoff to win Saturday's one-mile Mt. St. Helens Stakes by nearly a length over Ms Lady Palace.

Quiz the Maid, who earlier won the Lassie Stakes and the Ms Stakes at six furlongs, will now be pointed toward the 1 1/16-mile Oregon Oaks on April 17.

"I actually think she is a little better than Back Street Gal was last year, because she has been beating better competition," said Fergason. "I wasn't sure she could stretch out to win the Mt. St. Helens against fillies who had been racing regularly, but she did. That was the hard part. Now we'll just follow the Back Street Gal plan and see if she can win the Oaks, too."

Quiz the Maid, a Washington-bred daughter of Basket Weave, races for breeder Bill Grosso and was ridden on Saturday by Juan Gutierrez, who swept both stakes on the card.