Updated on 09/15/2011 1:19PM

Works say 'Expresso' is ready

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Meadows opens its 2001-2002 meeting on Saturday with a 10-race card topped by the $10,000-added Inaugural Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs.

The track's 80-day stand, which will be the first conducted under Magna Entertainment Inc., will stretch though April 28 of next year. The normal weekend first post will be at 1 p.m., but Saturday's card will start at 3 p.m., following the World Thoroughbred Championship races from Belmont Park. Belmont's first race will be at 9:05 a.m., while the first of eight Breeders' Cup races is set for 10:10 a.m.

Star Expresso, who won the Inaugural here in 1998 and the Flashaway Stakes in 1999, may be favored over eight rivals in Saturday's headliner. The 9-year-old Star Expresso has not started since September of last year, owing to a succession of ailments, the most recent of which was an infected jaw. But he has been in steady training for trainer Steve Fisher since early August and normally fires off the bench. Gary Baze has the mount at 118 pounds.

Among Star Expresso's most formidable rivals are the good 4-year-old filly Wegota Slewzy, who came within a nose of Knight Cover in last April's Flashaway Handicap; Capable Quest, a winner of six straight over this course last season; and Tomtom Tommalice, the Oregon Derby winner of 2000.

Also dangerous is the field's lone 3-year-old, Strike the Chord, who comes off a sharp win over $12,500 claimers at Bay Meadows on Oct. 5 and owns a substantial conditioning edge over his foes, most of whom are coming off layoffs.

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