03/10/2004 12:00AM

More Heart up in class, eyes repeat


PORTLAND, Ore. - More Heart, an impressive winner of his Portland Meadows debut just a week ago, will attempt to step up and repeat when he takes on six other older sprinters in Friday's 4 1/2 furlong feature for $4,000 claimers.

More Heart, a 4-year-old from the barn of trainer Roger Stevenson, shipped in from Golden Gate and took an instant liking to the local oval, leading throughout to score by seven widening lengths over $2,500 company in 52.41, the fastest 4 1/2 furlong clocking at the current meeting. Though he will be stepping up significantly Friday, it should be seen as a positive sign that leading rider Juan Gutierrez has elected to retain the mount at 121 pounds.

More Heart could get his sternest challenge from Rusty Boy, who will be stepping down sharply in an attempt to regain his winning stride. Rusty Boy, a 5-year-old who races for trainer Ted Jones, won twice in Canada last year but has been unable to match strides with some of the top sprinters on the grounds in a pair of 5 1/2-furlong allowance races here.

Rusty Boy finished about 11 lengths behind Star of Elttaes on Feb. 23 and about the same margin behind Yesss on March 6. Rusty Boy showed keen speed for a half-mile in both of those races, however, and he should appreciate both the shorter distance and the class relief Friday.

Apprentice Kristin O'Donnell, who was aboard three of Friday's entrants in their last start, has decided to stay on Rusty Boy and will ride at 112 pounds.

The feature will go as the fifth of nine live races Friday, when first post will be 7 p.m.