11/09/2002 12:00AM

'Champagne' toast of 10th


PORTLAND, Ore. - Champagne Til Dawn heads a disparate cast of six in the featured 10th race on Monday's Veterans Day program at Portland Meadows, a one-mile allowance for horses who have never won two races other than maiden or claiming.

The field includes two fillies, and its runners range in age from 3 to 8, but fans will have little difficulty finding the likely favorite, Champagne Til Dawn.

A 5-year-old son of In Excess, Champagne Til Dawn won sprinting at the $8,000 claiming level at Emerald Downs and is coming off a creditable fourth to Proud Louie in this track's Inaugural Handicap on Oct. 19. He has attempted the mile distance only once before, acquitting himself well by finishing third, beaten four lengths, against $8,000 claimers at Bay Meadows in May. Champagne Til Dawn will carry high weight of 123 pounds with Amir Cedeno riding for trainer Carlos Moreno.

Champagne Til Dawn figures to be tested early by Little Nat, who scored front-running wins over maiden special weight company and allowance rivals at last year's meet here.

Little Nat, a 4-year-old filly from the barn of Jerry Weaver, has not raced since March, when she faded to 11th after pressing the pace in a mile turf race at Golden Gate. But she could be ready to fire fresh after logging three five-furlong drills. Marijo Terleski will ride at 116 pounds.

A speed duel between Champagne Til Dawn and Little Nat could open the door for the strong-finishing Splendid George, who is coming off a mile win versus $4,000 claimers here Oct. 27.

The 11-race card starts at 1 p.m.

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