02/25/2004 1:00AM

Mile field not lacking experience

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PORTLAND, Ore. - P'burg and Peptide will head an assembly of 10 veteran performers in Friday's top offering at Portland Meadows, a one-mile race for $2,500 claimers.

The field has a collective age of 72, and they have combined for 50 wins.

P'burg and Peptide finished second and third when they met under the same conditions last time out on Feb. 16. P'burg, a noted stretch-runner, came from 11 lengths back to get within 3 3/4 lengths of the winner, Nate Jr., while Peptide was beaten six lengths after pressing the early pace.

P'burg, an 8-year-old who races for trainer Nick Chalich, was also second in his previous appearance on Jan. 23, when he met $2,500 company at 1 1/16 miles, and he has a history of stringing good races together. He posted back-to-back wins over $2,500 claimers at a mile here last April, and he appears to be approaching that form at present.

Peptide, a 7-year-old owned and trained by Chrissy Cheff, is the apparent speed of Friday's field and will likely be sent to the front by jockey Becky Abernathy. Peptide just failed to last after showing the way in a mile test for $2,500 claimers here on Dec. 22, and most of his six career victories were achieved in front-running style.

A possible spoiler is W. W. Dixie, who made the lead in the stretch before fading to third when going 1 1/16 miles in the first start of his current form cycle on Feb. 2. He has since finished fast for fourth and sixth in a pair of six furlong tries, and he could be ready to sustain his bid with the return to a route distance on Friday.