03/28/2003 1:00AM

Yesss too sharp to resist running in sprint stakes


PORTLAND, Ore. - For some horses, Sunday's six-furlong Governor's Speed Stakes will serve as a final prep for the $35,000 Portland Meadows Mile on April 27. For others, it will be the last chance at the meeting to win stakes money sprinting.

Yesss, who has been pointing to the Portland Meadows Mile throughout a season in which he has won all three of his route starts, certainly is among those targeting the Mile. But that doesn't mean he will simply be stretching his legs on Sunday.

"There is no question he is better going long," trainer Delmer Webb said. "But as sharp as he is right now, I think he is a legitimate threat to win at six furlongs.

"I worked him last weekend and he went a half in 48 [seconds] and change, then he went out five furlongs in 58 and change. He has never worked like that before. I really think he is better right now than he has ever been."

The 5-year-old Yesss has a career record of 2 wins, 1 second, and 2 thirds from 8 tries at six furlongs. In his lone attempt at the distance at this meeting, he ran a troubled third, beaten a half-length by longshot winner Rose City Special in the Oregon Sprint Championship in December.

"He broke slowly from the rail post and he raced blocked until it was too late, but he finished with a big rush when he finally got clear," Webb said. "He should have won that race. He'll be meeting tougher on Sunday, but he is a lot sharper now than he was in December.

"Yesss was a late foal and he was just okay as a 2-year-old, but he has stayed sound and he has improved every year. I think he is fully developed now, so it should be his time to shine."

The return of Lethal Grande

The Governor's Speed will mark Lethal Grande's return to Oregon racing. Lethal Grande, a 4-year-old who raced for his breeder and trainer, the late Pat Sonnen, was named the state's champion 2-year-old in 2001 and champion 3-year-old last year, but he has not raced in his home state since being upset by Fit to Bet in the 2001 Oregon Futurity.

Lethal Grande won two races and more than $60,000 last year in California, where he was claimed twice. He was claimed a third time for $25,000 on Jan. 30 at Santa Anita by local owner Mike Pollowitz. He ran once more at Bay Meadows in February before he was shipped here to local trainer G.D. Khalsa, who had been Sonnen's assistant when Lethal Grande raced here earlier in his career.

"He is just the same as when I knew him as a 2-year-old," said Khalsa. "He hasn't really grown any, but he hasn't picked up any bad habits, either. He's just a real nice horse to be around. You would think such a fast horse would be hard to train, but he really isn't. He is very manageable. He'll do anything you want him to do in the mornings."

That's a good thing, because Lethal Grande will be going into Sunday's race off a 42-day break. Khalsa is allowed to bring Lethal Grande to Portland Meadows only because he intends to run the horse in a stakes race. Otherwise, California racing rules require a claimed horse to remain in state until the meet ends.

"I entered him in an allowance race a couple of weeks ago, but I had to scratch him because we claimed him at Santa Anita and that meeting isn't over yet," said Khalsa. "I don't think the extra time off will hurt him, though. He probably needed a little freshening, and it really doesn't take much to keep him fit.

"The one change I might make with him is to take the blinkers off. He never wore blinkers when he raced here before, and I think he relaxed a little better than he did in California. I'd like to get him to sit and relax a little on Sunday. He's going to need to do that to get a mile, and our main goal for him is the Portland Meadows Mile."

'Apollogize' stays in Albuquerque

Trainer Carol Duby decided to leave I Won't Apollogize in New Mexico following last weekend's Harvest Handicap at The Downs at Albuquerque. The previously undefeated I Won't Apollogize chased a scorching pace of 21 seconds flat for the quarter and 44.40 for the half-mile before fading to ninth and last in the 5 1/2-furlong stakes, which was won by Absolutely True in 1:03.60.

Duby returned to Portland Meadows to care for her other horses, leaving I Won't Apollogize in the care of former local trainer Shane Peacock.

Emerald stalls rapidly filling

Emerald Downs racing secretary Grant Holcomb said 965 horses are currently on the grounds to prepare for the 91-day meeting that begins April 19.

"That's a few more than we had at this time last year, and I think all the stalls will be full before the meeting begins," he said.

Scheduled to ship in to fill many of the roughly 400 remaining stalls are several trainers who have not raced in the Northwest in recent years, including Rolland Fergason, Jim Hill, Vann Belvoir, and Bill McMeans.