04/27/2005 12:00AM

Slewicide Cruise ends drought for Baze

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AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Robbie Baze started the last two Emerald Downs meetings on fire, but this year he was feeling pretty chilly by the time Sunday's $40,000 Seattle Handicap rolled around. Baze was winless through his first 24 starts at the meet, and his entrant for the Seattle, Slewicide Cruise, had drawn the outside post in a speed-laden field of nine.

Not to worry. Though he raced four lanes wide around the turn and entered the stretch at least five lengths behind the surprising leader, Sabertooth, Slewicide Cruise finished with a flourish under rider Debbie Hoonan to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:08.60.

"It feels good to win one, and this is a good one to win," said Baze. "I actually liked his post, because he has always run well from the outside. I told Debbie to try to save any ground she could, but not to drop in behind horses. I didn't want him to get stopped."

Hoonan followed instructions, but her chances of winning didn't seem good at the top of the stretch. Despite returning from a layoff of 19 months, Sabertooth, the 2002 Longacres Mile winner, put away Willie the Cat after a sizzling half-mile in 43.60 seconds and opened what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.

"I knew I'd have to ride hard to have a chance, but as soon as I started riding he grabbed the bit and took off," said Hoonan. "He's an awesome horse."

Slewicide Cruise, a 5-year-old son of Slewdledo and multiple stakes winner Cruisin' Two Su, wasn't always awesome. Purchased as a yearling for $10,000 by owners Tom and Margo Boening from an ad they saw on the Internet, Slewicide Cruise was given to Baze to break and train, partly because of an ad the trainer had placed in the track's program, looking for horses. Slewicide Cruise was too big to risk breezing as a juvenile, however, and he wouldn't work at age 3.

"I finally had to take him out myself and really get into him to make him work," said Baze. "He was just a late-maturing horse. It wasn't until last year that he started coming around."

Slewicide Cruise closed his 4-year-old season with three straight wins, including a victory in this track's Chinook Pass Handicap at six furlongs. He raced once more after the Emerald meet ended, getting an easy win in the six-furlong Inaugural Handicap at Portland Meadows. Then Baze put him away for the winter.

"I thought about going on with him because he was so sharp, but I felt he had a chance to be really special this year if I took care of him," Baze said. "He's fully mature now, he's big and powerful, and he is still sound. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do."

Nance, Ortega, My Friend Dave are meet's best

Trainers Jonathan Nance and Jim Fergason entered the final weekend of racing at Portland Meadows in a tie for leading trainer honors with 46 wins apiece, but Nance saddled two winners to Fergason's one to clinch his second training title at the Portland track. Fergason had won the previous three trainer titles.

It wasn't close in the race for leading jockey, as Javier Ortega spotted his rivals a five-week head start and won the title going away with 72 wins to 54 for Twyla Beckner and Tim Neal, who tied for second.

My Friend Dave was the most successful horse at the meet, named top handicap horse, top Oregon-bred, and horse of the meeting for winning four races, including the Governor's Speed Handicap, and finishing a nose behind winner Demon Warlock in the Portland Meadows Mile.

Other equine awards went to Quartern for top 3-year-old filly, Typhoon Aaron for top 3-year-old colt or gelding, and Quiz the Maid for top older filly or mare. Slewicide Cruise was named best sprinter for his Inaugural victory, while Big Al T was voted best claimer after tying the track record for victories in a meet with eight, in 11 starts.

In Quarter Horse racing, Kristin O'Donnell was the top rider with 19 wins, and Don Young was the top trainer with 12 wins. One Fast Trick was named Quarter Horse of the meet after winning four of her five starts, all in stakes.

* The Oregon Racing Commission exercised its authority to extend simulcasting in Oregon through May 31, pending the disposition of a bill before the state's legislature. That bill would grant Portland Meadows permission to conduct simulcast wagering year-round. Current law allows tracks to simulcast only during their live meetings, but Portland Meadows has been the state's only track qualified to conduct simulcasting since the closing of the Multnomah Greyhound Park in December.