02/23/2006 1:00AM

Consistent Tamper the favorite


PORTLAND, Ore. - Tamper looks like the one to beat in Saturday's Lark's Legacy Invitational Handicap at Portland Meadows, which has drawn a field of five older sprinters to compete for a $7,500 purse at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Trained by Jim Fergason, Tamper will carry high weight of 124 pounds in the midst a sparkling campaign in which he has posted 2 wins and 3 runner-up finishes from 5 starts at the meeting. After finishing second to Eastern Accent in the six-furlong Inaugural Handicap on Oct. 22, Tamper won the one-mile invitational handicap and the 1 1/16-mile William Kyne Handicap in November before taking December off. Returning on Jan. 14, Tamper ran second to Silent Exploit in the one-mile Tall Ben Invitational Handicap before running second to Charlie's Pride last time out in a six-furlong allowance test on Feb. 6. With Charlie's Pride having shipped to California, Tamper figures to be favored under rider Juan Gutierrez.

Silent Exploit, who upset Tamper in the Tall Ben, again appears to be the top challenger. Silent Exploit came back to run fourth in the Feb. 6 allowance race won by Charlie's Pride, but was beaten only a length by Tamper.

An interesting alternative to the top two is Speedy Wheatie, a lightly raced 4-year-old trained by Dan Tanory. Speedy Wheatie won his debut over maiden special weight company by nearly a dozen lengths on Jan. 28, then came back to beat allowance rivals by almost two lengths on Feb. 12.