10/12/2006 11:00PM

Sweeter purse lures invaders


The move to double the minimum purses for open stakes at the Portland Meadows meeting from $10,000 to $20,000 is paying dividends.

The larger purse for Sunday's six-furlong Diane Kem Handicap convinced the connections of several fillies and mares who raced at Emerald Downs to extend their campaigns for at least one more race. Chief among the Emerald invaders is Star Amethyst, the highweight and probable favorite for the Kem.

A 5-year-old trained by Steve Bullock, Star Amethyst won 2 of 10 starts at the recently concluded Emerald meeting. Bullock has arranged for local trainer Robbie Baze to saddle Star Amethyst on Sunday.

"She has been turned out since the end of the Emerald meeting, but Steve said she is plenty fit," said Baze. "Her last three races were routes, so having a couple of weeks to freshen up was probably the best way to get her ready for the return to sprinting."

Star Amethyst ran quite well in her recent route attempts, missing by a nose to $25,000 claimers at a mile before running fifth in both the 1 1/16-mile Belle Roberts Handicap and in a mile race for $50,000 optional claimers. There is no question she is at her best sprinting, however, and she is 5 of 11 at Sunday's six-furlong distance.

"Her good efforts in the routes were probably an indication of how good she is right now," said Baze. "She hadn't really done much in her previous routes, but she has always been tough in sprints. She should fit really well in the Diane Kem."

Slewicide Cruise done for the year

Baze said that Slewicide Cruise, who finished second as the heavy favorite in last Sunday's Inaugural Handicap, will be turned out for the winter.

"That was our plan all along, win or lose," said Baze. "Of course we would have liked for him to win, but the important thing is that he came back good. We'll bring him back in the spring, and hopefully he'll have better luck than he did this year."

Slewicide Cruise, whose summer campaign was interrupted by an eye injury, hopped at the start of Inaugural and fell five lengths behind the leaders. That margin proved too much to make up. Height of Summer put away pace rivals Lethal Grande and Mountain Mustang entering the stretch and scampered away to score by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:12.06. Height of Summer, a 6-year-old trained by Shawna Whiteside, was dismissed at 7-1 in the field of five. Rider Joe Crispin said the victory was no surprise.

"I rode this horse in one of the bigger races on the Oregon fair circuit last summer, and he really impressed me," said Crispin. "We got pushed way wide, yet he only got beat a neck. I'm glad I got another chance with him."

Height of Summer, who was trained by owner Preston Boyd while racing on the fair circuit, gave Whiteside her first stakes win as a trainer.

"It feels great," said Whiteside, who is best known as a rider. "It's like when I won my first race as a jockey, that feeling of working hard and reaching the ultimate goal."

Whiteside said Height of Summer shipped out Monday and will not race again this year.

Crispin came back prepared

Crispin ended the first three-day week of racing atop the jockey standings with six wins.

The fast start might have surprised most observers, but not Crispin. Though he has long been regarded as one of the most talented riders in the Northwest, Crispin's career has been marred by several suspensions for drugs and alcohol. He missed all of last year's Portland Meadows meeting while serving a suspension for violating the conditions of his license, but he apparently made good use of his time away.

"It was the best thing that could have happened to me," he said. "I went through treatment and got my life in order. I'm riding at 116 pounds where I used to struggle to do 122, and I feel better than ever."

Crispin lured veteran agent Mike Delnick out of semi-retirement to take his book.

"I wouldn't be here if I weren't convinced he could stay straight," said Delnick.

My Crowning Glory eyes 11 straight

My Crowning Glory will put her streak of 10 straight wins at Portland Meadows on the line in Sunday's 350-yard Autumn Handicap for older Quarter Horses.

My Crowning Glory, a 6-year-old mare who races for trainer Wayne Burger, has dominated the handicap division here for the last two seasons. She went 7 for 7 at last year's stand, including a win via disqualification, then had a successful summer campaign in California and Idaho, finishing fourth in two stakes and winning an allowance.

"She seems to be as good as ever," said Burger. "I sure hope she is, anyway."

Burger said My Crowning Glory, a winner of 14 of her 34 starts, will race through February before retiring to be bred.