03/12/2003 12:00AM

Wegota Slewzy simply has too much speed

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PORTLAND, Ore. - With a favorite who was nearly 7-2 and seven of 12 entrants going off at less than 10-1, last Sunday's six-furlong City of Roses Stakes for older fillies and mares looked about as competitive as a race can be. Then it began.

Though there appeared to be a plethora of speed in the lineup, favored Wegota Slewzy shot to a daylight advantage under rider Bob Webb with an initial quarter in 21.56 seconds, opened up three lengths with a half-mile in 44.30, and continued to widen her margin to the wire, winning by nearly seven lengths in 1:10.20, just a second off the Portland Meadows track record set by Knight Cover in 1997.

The longshot Waytocutewaytocool got up for second, a neck in front of Santa Anita invader Seream.

"She has a lot of gas when you ask for it, and we decided to do that today," said Wegota Slewzy's trainer, Jim Fergason. "The track had been favoring speed all week, so we thought we should just go for it. She responded great. That was probably the best race she has ever run for me."

It was the first stakes win for Wegota Slewzy, a 6-year-old daughter of Tip on Slew and the multiple stakes winner Wegota Ghost. Wegota Slewzy had been stakes placed at 3 and 4, and she was coming off two wins and a narrow miss against allowance company. The loss came when she failed to open an early lead, and her connections didn't want to make that mistake again.

"Jim told me to toss the reins at her and let her go," said Webb, who took over the mount from an injured Clark Jones. "I really just sat on her after that, but she kept getting stronger. She's a tough old mare."

Fergason said he may attempt to stretch Wegota Slewzy out to a mile in her next start, which could serve as a prep for the 1 1/16-mile Donna Jensen Stakes on closing day, April 27.

Webb riding well in comeback

Wegota Slewzy's victory in the City of Roses was the third of the day and the sixth of the weekend for Webb, who has been red hot in recent weeks. Webb missed nearly all of last year with injuries and did not return to the saddle until mid-January. Since then, he has ridden 26 Thoroughbred winners from 134 mounts, plus a trio of Quarter Horse winners.

"It took a couple of weeks to regain my fitness and get my timing back, but I feel strong and fresh now," he said. "I think I'm riding as well as ever, and if I can keep it up through the end of this meeting I might try my luck at Emerald this summer."

Among Webb's Quarter Horse winners was the Ron Bronson-trained Zippy Chili Pepper, who won the fastest of last Saturday's two 400-yard qualifying heats for the Portland Meadows Quarter Horse Derby on March 22. Zippy Chili Pepper won by nearly a length in 19.99 seconds; Nancys Gotta Secret won the other qualifying heat in 20.18.

Special Sign gets stakes shot

Special Sign is set to join the stakes ranks after defeating a tough field of seven in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance last Saturday in 1:04.60, the fastest clocking for the distance at the meeting. In his previous outing, Special Sign, a Don Munger-trained 6-year-old, defeated Inaugural Handicap winner Proud Louie in a $12,500 claiming race with six furlongs in 1:10.40, which was the fastest six-furlong time to that point in the meet.

"We made some changes with his feed and his medication before the six-furlong race, and it seems to have made a big difference," said assistant trainer Robert Sodergren. "He beat most of the toughest sprinters on the grounds on Saturday, so it makes sense to give him a shot in the next sprint stakes."

That will be the $10,000 Governor's Speed Stakes at six furlongs on March 30.

Looking for derby horse in odd places

Trainer Jonathan Nance said that his client, owner Steve Smith, claimed a 3-year-old at Golden Gate last week for a possible engagement in the $25,000 Oregon Derby at nine furlongs here on April 13. Smith claimed First Laugh, a gelded son of Dr. Giggles out of a narrow miss in a mile race for $12,500 claimers on March 5.

"He broke his maiden going 1 1/16 miles and he ran very gamely at a mile on the day Steve claimed him, so routing seems to be his thing," said Nance. "He has good speed, which is lacking in our 3-year-old division, and I'm not sure that many of our 3-year-olds are worth much more than $12,500.

"We'll see. Even if he isn't an Oregon Derby horse, he should be a useful horse at Emerald Downs."