01/24/2002 12:00AM

7 stakes winners vie in Valley sprint

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A full field of 12 3-year-olds, many of whom will be asked to stretch out in distance later in the meet, has been entered for Saturday's $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The six-furlong race has drawn a well-matched group of colts and geldings, including the Cole Norman-trained entry of Explosive Truth and Tricky Storm. In a testament to the field's depth, seven of the horses entered have won at least one stakes.

Binyamin, Cojet, and Explosive Truth are among the colts who could tackle two turns later this meet in the $75,000 Southwest on March 2 and the $100,000 Rebel on March 23, two races designed to produce starters for the $500,000 Arkansas Derby on April 13.

Binyamin comes into the Mountain Valley on the heels of a second-place finish in a conditioned allowance at Turfway Park on Dec. 28. Prior to that race, he finished second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Lunar Bounty, in the Grade 2 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs on July 8.

"He's a nice colt," said trainer James Baker, who is new to Oaklawn. "He's improving. His last couple of works have been real good, and hopefully he'll improve off his last race."

In his last start, which was his first after nearly a six-month layoff, he contested the pace before settling for second in a six-furlong race that went in a sluggish 1:15.13. "The track was real deep that day," said Baker. "The fact that he was going head-to-head off that layoff, and that deep track, the combination just hurt us."

Binyamin shows two near bullet five-furlong works over the local strip and on Saturday will be reunited with defending riding champ Calvin Borel, who was aboard the colt when he won his maiden at Churchill Downs on June 2.

Binyamin, a son of champion Gilded Time and Christina Czarina, a stakes winner of $293,807, races for Ron Glanzman.

Cojet, also out of a stakes-winning mare, is another with an eye toward the two-turn stakes series at Oaklawn. In his last start, the colt finished third after making the lead in the stretch in the $75,000 Sugar Bowl Handicap at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Dec. 31.

"He got a little tired," said trainer Bob Holthus. "He's trained well since he's been back here."

Cojet drilled a bullet three furlongs in 34.60 seconds in his final prep for Saturday. Jockey Terry Thompson has the mount for owner Dan Jones.

* Spanish Glitter, a winner of $366,000 who finished fourth as the favorite in the $50,000 Wishing Well last out at Turfway Park, heads a tough field of 10 fillies and mares in the eighth race, a 5 1/2-furlong allowance that should produce starters for the $50,000 American Beauty on Feb. 9.

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