01/17/2003 12:00AM

Can't Be Golden is one to beat

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Can't Be Golden is the one to beat in Sunday's one-mile allowance feature at Portland Meadows. The race attracted an intriguing field of seven 4-year-old colts and geldings and one 5-year-old mare.

Can't Be Golden, a lightly raced son of Can't Be Slew trained by Laurie Ansell, won his debut here a year ago and then appeared to be overmatched when beaten in the Flying Lark Stakes a week later.

Given the spring and summer off, Can't Be Golden returned to action here in the fall and has since posted a win, a second, and two thirds while racing exclusively against allowance company. Can't Be Golden stretched out to a mile for the first time in his most recent outing on Jan. 3, when he ran a promising second to Fit to Bet, last season's Oregon Futurity winner.

Gary Baze will ride in place of regular rider Marijo Terleski, who will be aboard recent maiden winner Cougar Slew.

A Midnight Sheik merits a close look after outfinishing Can't Be Golden in his last start on Dec. 21, when he finished a half-length behind Brass Halo and a length ahead of Can't Be Golden in a six-furlong allowance run in 1:12.28.

A Midnight Sheik has only a distant third to show from three previous route tries, but two of those efforts came on turf. His dam, Country Bouquet, is by stamina influence Le Fabuleux and has foaled five previous route winners, so trainer A. Mark Jones can't be faulted for trying again around two turns.

The field's only mare is Little Nat, who figures to contend with Cougar Slew, SCR Top Player, and Lil's Golden Boy for the early lead.

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