01/19/2008 1:00AM

Polo Bender looks tough on the drop

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Meadows will honor humble claiming horses on Monday's Martin Luther King Day program, as the track's racing secretary, Jerry Kohls, has carded almost every race for bottom-level performers.

The split feature on Monday, six-furlong races that will go as the seventh and eighth on a nine-race card, will match $2,500 nonwinners of a race since May 7. Each has drawn seven entrants.

Polo Bender figures to be tough to collar in the seventh race, as he will drop from the $6,250 level for his second local start. Polo Bender, a 7-year-old son of Cahill Road from the barn of trainer Jonathan Nance, had his finest hour at Emerald Downs in 2005, when he won the $40,000 Chinook Pass Handicap going six furlongs in 1:08.60. He has not won in six subsequent starts, but he was meeting much tougher in those races and should appreciate Monday's class relief.

The eighth race looks wide open, but Master Bubbles may rule as a slight favorite off his good effort under the same conditions here on Jan. 8. Master Bubbles, a 4-year-old trained by Debbie Heasley, finished fourth behind My Friend Bart in that race, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 52, the highest last-race Beyer in the field.

The main challenger for Master Bubbles appears to be the Dan Tanory-trained Halo McFly, who finished 1 1/2 lengths back in the Jan. 8 race.