12/03/2003 1:00AM

Zip the Bright slips by unnoticed


PORTLAND, Ore. - Friday's Thanksgiving Handicap at a mile was supposed to be a showdown between Lethal Grande and Yesss, the kingpins of the local handicap division, but nobody told Zip the Bright.

Zip the Bright, 4, had not raced since closing for third behind Lethal Grande in the six-furlong Inaugural Handicap on Oct. 18 and was sent off at 20-1 in a field of six. He looked like a winner every step of the way.

Under leading rider Juan Gutierrez, Zip the Bright stalked the pace of Slewicide Cruise from the inside, slipped through along the rail in the upper stretch, and outfinished Lethal Grande by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:38.17, the fastest mile clocking of the meeting. Slewacide Cruise held third and Yesss was fourth as the 8-5 second choice to Lethal Grande at 7-5.

"I was shocked to see him racing so close to the pace, but I wasn't so surprised that he won," said trainer Henry Miller Jr., who owns Zip the Bright in partnership with breeder Hans Walter Hirth. "He ran big in the Inaugural Handicap, and I always thought he was a much better horse routing."

It was just the second win from 10 starts this year for Zip the Bright, who also defeated $20,000 claimers going 1 1/16 miles at Hastings Park in June, and it will be his last. Miller said Zip the Bright will be turned out until spring.

Miller, who trained former British Columbia horse of the year I'm Free, has trained in Canada for 23 of his 39 years. He is campaigning at Portland Meadows for just the second time.

"I came down last year with three horses, just to scope things out," he said. "I brought 10 horses this time, and I'll have three more coming. I plan to race here through the end of January, then I'll turn them all out."

G.D. Khalsa, who trains Lethal Grande, and Delmer Webb, the trainer of Yesss, offered no excuses for their horses' performances. Both said their charges will come back in the six-furlong Oregon Sprint Championship on Oregon-bred Day, Dec. 13.

Runaway Briartic wins with ease

Webb got his chance to pose for pictures Saturday with Columbia River Stakes winner Runaway Briartic, who may have been the less-fancied half of a heavily favored entry that included Bill Wineberg Stakes runner-up Tom Won.

Under rider Twyla Beckner, who got off Tom Won to accept the mount, Runaway Briartic darted to a four-length lead and was never threatened, holding sway by two lengths over longshot Top Victory in 1:13.22 for six furlongs. Mythical Road was just a neck back in third and Tom Won got up for fourth in a field of 10.

"He is super fast, but he gives me the impression he'll keep going," said Beckner. "He's a pretty cool horse. I'm excited about him."

Runaway Briartic, a Washington-bred by Son of Briartic out of Runaway Big, defeated $12,500 maidens by nine lengths in his only other start. He isn't eligible for the rich Oregon Futurity on Dec. 13, so it may be a while before he reappears.

"We'll just have to see what comes up," said Webb, who trains Runaway Briartic for owners Troy Lang and Dan Miller. "There will be some open stakes after the first of the year, and eventually I'd like to stretch him out. He might be an Oregon Derby horse."

There is nothing in Runaway Briartic's pedigree to prevent him from getting the nine furlongs of the Oregon Derby, which will be run April 3. His dam notched both of her wins around two turns, while her siblings combined for 39 wins, 22 of which came in routes.

Farm City Rip looks good in victory

The most impressive winner Saturday may have been the 2-year-old Quarter Horse Farm City Rip, who blazed 400 yards in 20.25 to win the $18,991 Oregon-bred Juvenile by 2 1/2 lengths. It was the fifth win from seven starts for Farm City Rip, a daughter of Fastnfierce who races for Jeff Bollinger and Mark Kaylor's J and M Racing.

"She is a pretty special filly," said Kaylor. "She has done everything we've asked of her so far, and she seems to be getting better with each start."

The owner said Farm City Rip, who is trained by Walter Nix, will leave this week for Los Alamitos.

"We don't have a race picked out for her yet, but we think Los Alamitos is where she belongs," he said. "We want to see how good she really is."

Monday's live card handle tops $500K

Portland Meadows' nine live races Monday drew total wagering of $521,222, marking the first time in more than 15 years that the handle for the live card has exceeded half a million dollars.

Most of the wagering - $465,585 - came from outside the state. Another $35,367 was wagered on track and $20,270 was wagered at satellite sites within the state.

Changing Monday's first post from 2:30 to 1:35 appeared to play a role in the wagering surge, according to general manager Jeff Grady.