11/19/2003 1:00AM

'Lakota' liable to improve


PORTLAND, Ore. - Lakota Road and Merrigoldround will square off in Friday's top race at Portland Meadows, a six-furlong sprint for $2,500 fillies and mares that has drawn a full field of 12.

Lakota Road tuned up for Friday's race, the sixth on a nine-race card, with a second to Rated Up Blue in a 4 1/2-furlong sprint for similar company here on Nov. 7, when she was beaten two lengths in a race that was run in 55.70 seconds. That was her first start since January, and she seems certain to benefit from the effort.

Lakota Road, a 4-year-old from the barn of trainer Dave Duke, won at the $4,000 level here last season and appears to be cleverly spotted. She will be ridden by Becky Abernathy at 121 pounds.

Merrigoldround, a 3-year-old filly trained by Heather Dye, is the only entrant coming off a win. Merrigoldround downed $5,000 maidens on Nov. 8 in impressive fashion, moving seven lanes wide to take the lead turning into the stretch and drawing off to score by more than three lengths in 1:08.58 for 5 1/2 furlongs. Jose Rivera Jr., who was aboard for that score, will ride again at 121 pounds.

Also dangerous is Can't Be an Angel, a stakes winner last summer at Grants Pass. Can't Be an Angel, a 3-year-old, has gone unplaced in two starts at this meeting, but she will be dropping from the $4,000 level and should appreciate the class relief.