02/23/2006 12:00AM

Time for Speedy Wheatie to tackle talent

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Speedy Wheatie is undefeated and untried following easy wins over maiden special weight and allowance company, but he will be tested for class when he meets several of the top sprinters on the Portland Meadows grounds in Saturday's Lark's Legacy Invitational Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs.

"It's time to find out how good he is," said trainer Dan Tanory. "You never really know until they run against the good ones, but I think he'll fit with these horses. I know he hasn't run as fast as some of the others, but he has done everything we have asked of him. We haven't asked him for his best yet, and I think he has something more to give."

Speedy Wheatie, a 4-year-old son of Wheaton who races for breeder Don Jackson, won his Jan. 28 debut by more than 11 lengths with six furlongs in 1:11.61. Coming back in a 4 1/2-furlong allowance race on Feb. 12, he prevailed by nearly two lengths in 53.18 seconds. Those two races constitute a fast start for a career that was slow to materialize.

Tanory said Speedy Wheatie had pharyngitis, an inflammation of the throat, as a young horse, then bucked his shins last fall at Emerald Downs when trainer Junior Coffey had him almost ready to race. He was turned out to heal then sent to Tanory late last year.

"They told me he was a runner, and he hasn't done anything to make me think otherwise," said Tanory. "I think he's a really nice horse, but I guess I'll find out for sure on Saturday."

At least until Saturday, Speedy Wheatie will remain one of the few undefeated runners on the grounds. The two most notable undefeated runners to compete at this meeting, Charlie's Pride and Bayou Slew, shipped out to test their mettle at Golden Gate. Both horses have worked since arriving in San Francisco and are awaiting an opportunity to race.

My Crowning Glory hard to beat

The Quarter Horse mare My Crowing Glory isn't undefeated, but it takes a good memory to recall her last defeat at Portland Meadows. My Crowing Glory, a 6-year-old who races for trainer Wayne Burger, won her final three starts here last season, and she has begun the current stand with six straight scores. Her latest success was a neck victory over La Kangara in Sunday's Portland Meadows Quarter Horse Championship at 440 yards. Regular rider Flip Nollar was aboard.

"She is a seasoned professional now," said Nollar. "Early in her career she had trouble breaking, but now she knows exactly what to do. I think I've ridden some faster Quarter Horses, but I've never ridden one who was so consistent. She'll run on any kind of track, and she will bust a gut trying to win."

Among the most interesting contestants in the Portland Meadows Quarter Horse Championship was the 11-year-old No Options Mister, who traveled from Texas to get a prep over the track for the Professional's Choice Claiming Challenge on April 2. No Options Mister ran a highly creditable third despite hitting the side of the gate at the start.

Alvin Francis, assistant to owner and trainer K. C. Cardin, said No Options Mister will return to Texas, then make another round trip of nearly 5,000 miles for the April 2 race.

Two local champs working for return

The Northwest Handicap ranks took a huge hit last year when both Demon Warlock, the horse of the year at Emerald Downs in 2004, and Slewicide Cruise, the sprinter of the meeting at the same stand, went down with injuries to their suspensory ligaments in April. Both horses, now 6-year-olds, are back in training at Emerald, and their trainers have high hopes that they can return to top form.

Trainer Terry Gillihan said Demon Warlock has been galloping strongly and is sitting on his first work, while trainer Robbie Baze reported that Slewicide Cruise has already logged two three-furlong drills.

"The first time he worked he went in 34.40, and it scared me to death," said Baze. "Gary Baze was up, and I had to ask him what he planned to do for an encore. I just wasn't ready for him to go that fast, but he came out of the workout fine."

Slewicide Cruise worked again on Tuesday, and Gary Baze managed to throttle him down to 36.20 seconds, which was still the fastest of five drills for the day at three furlongs.

* The racing secretary at Emerald Downs, Paul Ryneveld, reported that 738 horses were at Emerald to prepare for the April 21 opener as of Tuesday. Most of last year's riders are expected to return, and former riding champ Kevin Radke plans to ride again after missing two full seasons with a stubborn wrist injury. Newcomers are expected to include Wade Rini, who has been riding at Turf Paradise, and Julio Felix, who has been riding at Turfway Park.