11/14/2001 12:00AM

Few clues, little form

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Friday's featured eighth race, a 5 1/2-furlong race for $4,000 claiming 3-year-olds and up who have never won two races, illustrates the difficulties that handicappers have faced early in the Portland Meadows meeting.

There simply aren't many common points of reference among the nine contestants, as only three have started at the meeting. Three others made their last start at Hastings Park, while the remainder last started at Emerald Downs, Los Alamitos, or Kalispell in Montana.

To make the task of finding a winner even harder, the only entrants in Friday's feature who have finished better than fifth in their last two races are the recent maiden winners Jean's Fancy Face and Paniolo Road. Paniolo Road may be favored after posting a pair of sharp recent efforts over this track.

Paniolo Road, a 3-year-old son of Cisco Road from the barn of Roger Stevenson, ran second in a $4,000 maiden race here on opening day, then returned and won by a length at the same level on Nov. 3, when he got five furlongs in a creditable 1:01.27. Paniolo Road is the only entrant in sharp form, albeit against maidens.

Jean's Fancy has not started since winning a $5,000 maiden race Aug. 2 at Emerald at 39-1.

In a race that must be regarded as a toss-up, a two-for-one deal will be tempting. Fans can get such a deal in the form of the Clyde Terry-owned and -trained entry of General D Gall and Amescua, both of whom have been racing without success at the $5,000 claiming level at Hastings Park.

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