12/05/2001 12:00AM

Look past last-out winners

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Handicappers will have their hands full with Friday night's featured eighth race at Portland Meadows, a mile affair for open $2,500 claimers that has drawn an evenly matched field of 10.

Only two of the contestants are coming off wins, and neither is likely to be favored. Jackson Nicholas posted a five-length maiden victory at about 1 1/8 miles when last seen at Tillamook, but that race was run in August, and he will be meeting vastly tougher company on Friday. Shotsfired won more recently, going wire to wire against restricted $2,500 claimers at a mile here on Nov. 24, but he had the misfortune to draw the extreme outside post and will have a tough task to make the lead with the short run to the first turn.

Sentosa and Happy Release, who ran third and fourth going a mile for a $3,200 claiming price on Nov. 25, seem more likely to be fancied.

Sentosa, an 11-time winner, has been third in all three of his starts at the meeting and could be ready to take a step forward. Happy Release was a gaudy 8 1/2-length winner over $2,500 company at a mile here on Nov. 4 and should appreciate the drop back down in class.

Sentosa was beaten by T D Prospect in a mile race run under Friday's conditions on Nov. 18, and T D Prospect poses an obvious threat off that effort, but needs an excuse for his dismal eighth-place finish in a subsequent race against $3,200 claimers on Nov. 25. T D Prospect showed no run at any point in that mile event and was beaten almost 13 lengths by the winner, Carbonized, and more than 10 lengths by Sentosa.

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