02/05/2003 1:00AM

Top two vie in virtual match race

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Seven older maiden fillies and mares meet in the Friday night feature at Portland Meadows.

The $8,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs appears to be a virtual match race on paper between the speedy Black Barry Velvet, drawn in the outside post 7, and Bubblegum Red, who breaks from the rail.

Both come off runner-up finishes at this level.

Black Barry Velvet, a 4-year-old, figures to be in front early. She is the only member of the field who has ever had the lead in a sprint.

She was in front by three lengths through an opening quarter of 22.20 seconds in her last start on Jan. 11. She was still in front after a 46.20 half, before being caught late and losing by three-quarters of a length.

Bubblegum Red, a 4-year-old, was second on Jan. 12 in her first start since finishing last in a June 23, 2002, race at Stockton on the northern California fair circuit.

She stalked and rallied four wide, earning a career-best 48 Beyer Speed Figure - three points higher than Black Barry Velvet's career best.

Bettors may be wary of a possible bounce after such a big comeback effort, but trainer Dan Tanory has given Bubblegum Red a decent work since that start, and he has been hot with six wins, four seconds, and a third in 19 starters.

Friday's cards usually open with a Quarter Horse race followed by eight Thoroughbred races, but this Friday's card has seven Thoroughbred races and will conclude with two Quarter Horse races.

* Stakes winners Back Street Gal, Carlyn Road, and Our Lucky Kiss top the nine nominees for Saturday's Ms. Stakes.

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