03/13/2004 1:00AM

Distance switch favors Little Pursuit


PORTLAND, Ore. - Stately's Choice and Little Pursuit, the top two finishers in last month's Sweetheart Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, will be rematched at six furlongs in Monday's allowance feature for older fillies and mares at Portland Meadows.

The Sweetheart was no contest, with Stately's Choice drawing out to score by slightly more than 10 lengths as the 4-5 favorite. Stately's Choice, a 5-year-old from the barn of trainer Ben Root, would again be an overwhelming favorite if Monday's race was around two turns, but the cutback in distance should intensify the competition. While Stately's Choice scored an allowance victory at six furlongs earlier in the meeting, she is a multiple stakes winner going long and much prefers a distance of ground.

Little Pursuit, another 5-year-old, showed the way through six furlongs in the Sweetheart before yielding to Stately's Choice and should appreciate Monday's shorter distance. The Joann Shirk-trained Little Pursuit won a pair of allowance sprints here last season and figures to be well in front of her main rival in the early going.

The program also includes the first leg of the Hambleton Lumber Marathon Series, which will go in two divisions. Both ends will be run at 1 1/8 miles under $4,000 starter allowance conditions.

Likely to be favored in the second division is Mr. Melcap, a winner of three of his last four outings, including a 2 1/4-length victory over $4,000 rivals in his most recent start at a mile on Feb. 23. Like most of his rivals, Mr. Melcap will be attempting nine furlongs for the first time.