10/16/2002 11:00PM

Expectations high as 80-day meeting begins

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Meadows will begin its second season under the management of the Magna Entertainment Corporation on Saturday with a 10-race program topped by the $10,000 Inaugural Handicap. The Inaugural, at six-furlongs for 3-year-olds and up, has lured an extremely competitive field of 11.

The bulky Inaugural field is typical of the opening-day card: 102 horses, including eight also-eligibles, were entered for the 10 races. The abundance contrasts markedly with the situation here last season, when environmental problems jeopardized the meeting and prompted some horsemen to race elsewhere.

Those environmental issues eventually forced the early closing of the meeting after 49 days of racing, on Feb. 10. A new waste water disposal system has since been completed, and horsemen are now assured of 80 days of racing stretching through April 27. They have responded by filling the track's 830 stalls to near capacity.

In addition to completing the waste water disposal system, Magna, which last year renovated the track and the grandstand, has installed a new outside fence around the racing surface, painted the barns, and rebuilt the training track in anticipation of a successful stand.

With many speed horses entered in the Inaugural, Bob Stories could be the one to focus on. The 6-year-old Bob Stories won the 2000 renewal of the Inaugural with a characteristically strong finish and is racing in sharp form now, having defeated $8,000 claiming rivals at 6 1/2 furlongs in his last start at Emerald Downs on Sept. 16. Regular rider Amir Cedeno will be on hand to ride Bob Stories for trainer Mike Totland at 118 pounds, the second-highest assignment in the field.

Highweight of 119 pounds will be carried by Bold Chant, who ran third to Tomtom Tommalice and Star Expresso in last year's Inaugural. Bold Chant, another 6-year-old, prepped twice at Hastings Park for trainer Troy Taylor, posting a strong second against $11,000 claiming rivals in his most recent try Sept. 29. Bold Chant will have the inside post to complement his exceptional early speed, but he figures to receive early pressure from B's Golden Drummer, Champagne Til Dawn, Proud Louie, Aint No Connection, and White Satin, all of whom do their best running on the lead.

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