10/19/2005 11:00PM

Inaugural kicks off meeting


Portland Meadows in Portland, Ore., ushers in its 80-day 2005-06 meeting Saturday with a nine-race card headed by the $10,000 Inaugural Handicap, a six-furlong test for older sprinters that has drawn a field of five. The meeting ends on May 7, 2006, Kentucky Derby Day.

My Friend Dave, named horse of the meeting here last season, will square off against Eastern Accent in the Inaugural. My Friend Dave, a 5-year-old son of Can't Be Slew trained by Corky Caron, ended last year's meet with a flourish. He won three straight handicaps, including the six-furlong Governor's Speed, before dropping a nose decision to Washington star Demon Warlock in the $40,000 Portland Meadows Mile on April 7.

Caron turned My Friend Dave out after his big effort in the Mile, and perhaps because of his recent inactivity My Friend Dave was assigned only 119 pounds, four pounds less than Eastern Accent. Steve Clausen has the mount.

Despite his steadying 123-pound assignment, Eastern Accent is expected to be favored off his sharp recent form at Emerald Downs.

A 4-year-old, Eastern Accent raced three times at Emerald, twice running second to the crack sprinter Starbird Road before defeating $35,000 optional claimers going a mile in 1:34.20 on Oct. 1.

Tamper shares second-highweight honors with My Friend Dave despite having gone winless in three starts this year. Tamper did run second for $25,000 and $15,000 tags at Emerald, however, and has speed to challenge the front-running Eastern Accent early.