01/23/2015 4:02PM

Portland Mile rematches top finishers from Crater Lake Stakes

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Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs
Eight-year-old Memphis Mobster could be the favorite in Sunday's Portland Mile.

The top five finishers in the recent Crater Lake Handicap at Portland Meadows, including upset winner Sportive, will meet again Sunday in the $35,000 Portland Mile Handicap, the biggest race of the year at Oregon’s flagship track.

Sportive, who returned $46.40 for his Crater Lake victory on New Year’s Day, will be a shorter price Sunday, but probably not the favorite. That distinction could fall to Memphis Mobster, the likely pacesetter, or perhaps Johnski, who couldn’t contain Sportive in the one-mile Crater Lake after surging to the lead in midstretch.

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Trainer Rigoberto Velasquez, who has won with 35 percent of his starters at the meeting, will send out two contenders in the seven-horse field: Memphis Mobster, who was assigned high weight of 123 pounds, and Stoney River, an improving 4-year-old who has thrived since being claimed by Velasquez at Emerald Downs in September.

The others in the field are Maddies Gold, who finished a distant fifth in the Crater Lake, and a pair of longshots – Leadership and Hunterwood Point – who finished heads apart in a $10,000 claimer in their last start.

KEY CONTENDERS

Johnski (Last 3 Beyers: 74, 74, 76)

◗ A 6-year-old by Lion Heart, Johnski has won two of his three starts at the meeting.

◗ He has never won around two turns but gave a sharp effort in the Crater Lake, putting away Memphis Mobster before yielding to Sportive.

“I really wanted to use the Crater Lake as a prep for the Mile for him,” trainer Roddina Barrett said. “I wanted to know he could handle the distance and the competition, and he showed me he could.”

Memphis Mobster (Last 3 Beyers: 65, 80, 84)

◗ A speedy 8-year-old by Memo, Memphis Mobster has won two stakes at the meeting, both sprints. He finished fourth as the even-money favorite in the Crater Lake but may have had an excuse.

“I don’t think he was quite at his best,” Velasquez said. “He was a little sore going into the race, but when you have the big favorite sometimes you think you can do anything. He’s doing much better now.”

Sportive (Last 3 Beyers: 75, 67, 63)

◗ He drew the outside post position, and while the field is compact, Sportive will have to hustle to avoid losing ground around the first turn. He’ll be handled by Javier Matias for owner-trainer Jackie Smith.

◗ Sportive, by Bellamy Road, is 2 for 4 at one mile.

Stoney River (Last 3 Beyers: 70, 74, 77)

◗ Velasquez has 37 wins through the first 30 days of the meeting, more than double his nearest pursuer.

◗ Stoney River posted a career-best Beyer in his second start for the trainer, and then captured the Oregon His Stakes for statebreds in start No. 3.

◗ Stoney River closed smartly in the Crater Lake and could get a favorable stalking trip Sunday from his inside post position.