04/14/2005 11:00PM

U.S. Bank should help sort out 3-year-old fillies


AUBURN, Wash. - A Classic Life and Charming Colleen were clearly the two best juvenile fillies to race at Emerald Downs last year, but trainer Grant Forster intends to campaign A Classic Life in the Midwest this season, and Charming Colleen was sold for a reported $600,000 and moved to Southern California, where she has since run fifth, third, and fourth in three Grade 1 events.

There is consequently room at the top of this season's 3-year-old filly division, and the vacancy should be filled, at least temporarily, in Sunday's $40,000 U. S. Bank Stakes at six furlongs.

One logical candidate to fill the void is Queenledo, who was named last year's top Washington-bred 2-year-old filly after winning one stakes and running second in two more. Queenledo, a daughter of Slewdledo who races for Kings and Queens Stable, never scored above 56 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale, however, and trainer Tim McCanna knows she will have to improve.

"I think she can do better, though," said the trainer. "She has grown and matured over the winter, and she has retained her good qualities. What I have always loved about her is that she just does everything right. She is one of the smartest horses I have ever trained, and she is determined to win. She's a real racehorse."

Queenledo has not raced since last September, when she was beaten a neck by U.S. Bank Stakes hopeful M K Beck in the six-furlong Diane Kem Stakes on Washington Cup Day. But McCanna said she hasn't missed a beat this spring.

"She worked six furlongs in 1:11 and change last week, so I think she is plenty fit," he said. "I like her. I know some people weren't impressed with the 2-year-old fillies we had here last summer, but that didn't stop those guys from paying a lot of money for Charming Colleen. It looks like she might be worth the money, too, and Queenledo really should have beat her when they met."

McCanna was referring to last year's Angie C. Stakes, in which Queenledo missed catching Charming Colleen by only a half-length after being held up by traffic in the stretch.

McCanna has won 5 of the 9 training titles decided at Emerald Downs, and last year he was the track's leading money-winning trainer with $614,419 in earnings, while finishing second to Frank Lucarelli in the standings. He isn't sure if he can make a run at another title this year.

"I've got Queenledo, Willie the Cat, and Poker Brad back, and I'm counting on those three," he said. "Other than that, there are just a whole lot of question marks."

Debbie's Assault may need longer

Among the most interesting candidates in Sunday's stakes is Debbie's Assault, a regally bred daughter of Belong to Me who raced only twice last year. In her first start, she broke awkwardly and lost her rider. In her second, she prevailed by nearly a length over maiden special weight company despite breaking tardily, racing wide and ducking out in the stretch.

"If you look at her races from last year, you'd think she was some kind of problem horse," said trainer Bob McMeans. "That's never been the case, though. She has always done everything right in the mornings. She did run a little green in her second race, but in her first start the ground just broke out from under her. You can't really blame her for that."

McMeans said Debbie's Assault has trained well this spring, and he expects a good effort from her on Sunday, though perhaps not her very best effort.

"She'll probably need more ground before she shows her best stuff," he said. "She acts like a router, and that's the way she is bred, too. She has some speed, though, and she should be able to lay fairly close. I think she'll be in with a shot when they turn for home."

Paxton has juvenile strength again

Jerre Paxton, who races Debbie's Assault under the banner of Northwest Farms, has sent some very well-bred 2-year-olds to Emerald Downs in recent years, and this year is no exception.

McMeans said that he has three juveniles in training for Paxton. He has a Pulpit filly out of Northern Hilite, who is the dam of stakes winner Strong Credentials; a High Yield filly out of multiple stakes winner Taste of Passion; and a Cat Thief colt out of Arlington Park allowance winner Flows Like Wine.

Paxton also has three juveniles in training with Doris Harwood. There is a daughter of Fusiachi Pegasus out of Northwest Colors, who is out of Winning Colors; a Thunder Gulch filly out of The Seven Seas, by El Grand Senor; and a Siphon filly out of Firesweeper, who won a record 13 stakes at Longacres.

Finally, Paxton has a High Yield filly out of the Pleasant Colony mare Pleasant Jolie in training with Tom Wenzel.

Expect more promising Northwest Farms-bred runners in the years to come, as Paxton has made some notable additions to his already-accomplished broodmare band. He retired Lasting Code, a five-time stakes winner at Emerald Downs, and she was recently confirmed in foal to Empire Maker, and Paxton recently purchased Ema Bovary, a winner of 10 of her 12 starts in North America, from owner Rick Beal. Ema Bovary is slated to be bred to Smarty Jones.