10/31/2001 12:00AM

'Tomtom' regains good form in return to his favorite track

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Just about everybody in attendance seemed to have a good time when Portland Meadows opened its 2001-2002 meeting last weekend, but few could have enjoyed themselves more than breeder, owner, and trainer Pat Sonnen.

Sonnen sent out his homebred Tomtom Tommalice to resurrect his stakes career with a victory in Saturday's $11,375 Inaugural Handicap for older sprinters, then watched his recent claim Lammy post an authoritative win in Sunday's $8,400 Lassie Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Jockey Juan Gutierrez contributed flawless rides to both scores.

Tomtom Tommalice, a 4-year-old son of Drumalis, was named the meet's champion 3-year-old in 1999-2000 after winning the Oregon Derby and four other stakes. He was coming off a pair of dismal efforts against mid-level claimers at Bay Meadows, however, and Sonnen was running out of patience.

"If he doesn't run better today, he'll find the bottom pretty quick," Sonnen warned only moments before Saturday's stakes was run. "This is his last chance for glory."

Tomtom Tommalice availed himself of the opportunity, rating off a contested pace set by the favored Bold Chant and the good filly Wegota Slewzy before splitting rivals in the deep stretch to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths over Star Expresso in 1:00.40 for five furlongs. Bold Chant finished a half-length farther back in third.

Tomtom Tommalice returned $20.20 to win for his sixth victory from seven starts at Portland Meadows.

"He does love Portland Meadows," said Sonnen. "I guess it's a good thing for both of us that they got this track open again."

Sunday's Lassie was a cakewalk for Lammy, who broke on top and widened thereafter to score by seven lengths over 21-1 shot Aurora Dawn in 1:01.20 for five furlongs. Sonnen claimed Lammy out of an impressive win over $12,500 maidens at Emerald Downs, and she was bet down to 3-5 over five rivals who were starting for the first time since last spring.

"I claimed her because she was an Oregon-bred who showed a little ability in her first two starts, and she is a half-sister to a horse who earned a lot of money in Japan," Sonnen said. "I think I got lucky."

Handle on live card skyrockets

The track's first season under the auspices of MEC Oregon Racing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Magna Entertainment Corp., got off to a good start when fans turned out in force to wager $382,688 on Belmont's World Thoroughbred Championships card, up more than 7 percent from last year's Breeders' Cup Day wagering. In all, the track handled $748,290 on Saturday, including $121,919 on its 10-race live card.

"The in-state handle on our live card was $81,804, and that was up 91 percent from last year," said track president Art McFadden. "That was the figure we found most encouraging."

Things went remarkably smoothly from an operational standpoint, and many fans commented favorably on the newly refurbished clubhouse and turf club, and on the vastly improved food service. McFadden said almost all of the renovation work was done after the Environmental Protection Agency gave the track final approval to bring horses on the grounds just three weeks before the meeting opened.

"We had phenomenal cooperation from the horsemen," said McFadden. "For example, [trainer] Ron Haasl laid all the carpeting, and [OTBA president] Bruce Louden did all the painting. Bruce even came out personally, on a Sunday, and got up on a cherry-picker to wash the windows on the enclosed grandstand. Everybody pitched in to help us get ready for this meeting."

Region gets two new stallions

Two attractive new stallions are preparing to stand the 2002 breeding season in the Portland area.

Midway Magistrate, a Grade 3 stakes winner of $554,792, will begin his stud career at Fergason Farm in Vancouver, Wash. Owned by Jim Fergason and Dave Benson, Midway Magistrate is a 7-year-old son of the Northern Dancer sire Magesterial and is from the Little Current mare Say Forever.

Klinsman, a 7-year-old son of Danehill, will stand at Jack and Cookie Root's Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Newberg, Ore. Klinsman, who placed in the Grade 2 San Bernardino Handicap and earned $150,311 while registering as high as 112 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale. He will be the first stallion in the Northwest by Danehill, the sire of Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Banks Hill and Europe's top sprinter, Mozart.

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