10/14/2004 12:00AM

'Cruise' must carry weight in opener


PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Meadows will launch its 58th season on Saturday with a nine-race card headed by the $10,000 Inaugural Handicap at six furlongs.

Portland Meadows will race for 80 days, with the meet scheduled to end on April 24, 2005.

Slewicide Cruise will concede from four to 10 pounds to seven rivals when he shoulders high weight of 125 pounds in the Inaugural, which is being renewed for the 31st time.

Slewicide Cruise, a 4-year-old son of Slewdledo from the barn of trainer Robbie Baze, earned his impost with three wins at the recently concluded Emerald Downs meet, including a half-length victory over Jade Green in the six-furlong Chinook Pass Stakes on Sept. 19. Baze said he feels his stable star is capable of running his race despite the hefty weight package.

"He is a big, strong horse, and I have to think that will help," said the trainer. "I know he carries me around there in the mornings, and I weigh a lot more than 125 pounds."

Slewicide Cruise figures to get his sternest challenge from Yesss, whose dozen wins over the Portland Meadows track include six stakes scores. Yesss, a 6-year-old son of Abstract trained by Delmer Webb for his wife, Shirley, is also coming off a campaign at Emerald Downs, where he posted a win over optional $25,000 claimers at a mile in July.

Another intriguing possibility is the 9-year-old Turkish Prize, who has won over $611,000 and has 11 wins in 46 starts, mostly in Southern California. Turkish Prize won the lion's share of his earnings on grass and he has not raced since June 2003, but his lone win from three starts on dirt came at Saturday's six-furlong distance and he has been working forwardly for new trainer Nick Lowe since mid-August.

Lowe will also saddle Bontrando, another refugee from California, who posted grass wins against maiden special weight and $40,000 starter allowance company at Bay Meadows in 2003. He has not run since July of that year. Bontrando will not be coupled with Turkish Prize owing to separate ownership.

There is a coupling in the field, however, as trainer Cathy Crispin will saddle the entry of Mythical Road and Ten Across. Mythical Road, the only 3-year-old in the Inaugural field, is coming off a sharp second against $25,000 sprinters at Emerald on Sept. 20, while Ten Across posted a mile win over $12,500 rivals last summer at Emerald.

First post for Saturday's card is set for 1:05 p.m.