01/22/2003 12:00AM

L'Unica Halo and 'Zoot' appear best


PORTLAND, Ore. - An evenly matched band of 10 older Oregon-bred fillies and mares will seek their second career wins in Friday's Portland Meadows feature, a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race with a purse of $4,620.

Though favoritism is up for grabs, it will be hard for handicappers to ignore Zoot Scootin Hurli and L'Unica Halo. They finished second and third, respectively, in a six-furlong allowance without the statebred restriction on Jan. 12. Zoot Scootin Hurli, who runs for trainer Nick Lowe, carried a long lead into the stretch that day and tired only in the final sixteenth, so the cutback in distance would appear to be in her favor.

Zoot Scootin Hurli could be hard pressed to gain the lead on Friday, however, because Pure Independence has also demonstrated good early speed. Pure Independence, a nicely bred daughter of Southern Halo from the barn of trainer Jerry Weaver, led throughout against maiden special weight males in her second career start on Dec. 8, when she got 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:07.51.

Painted La Riva poses a threat from off the pace. She came from well back to defeat maiden special weight fillies in 1:07.35 for 5 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 15. Painted La Riva, trained by Jim Keen, subsequently finished fifth in a mile allowance race on Jan. 10, but should regain her late kick with the return to a sprint on Friday.

At the very least, Painted La Riva will be easy to spot. A chestnut, she has large splotches of white throughout her coat and is one of only a handful of horses who is registered as both a Thoroughbred and a Paint.

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