04/08/2003 12:00AM

Aiming high with Beau's Town


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Can he compete at racing's top level or is he just a regional standout?

Beau's Town's owners plan to find out this year. They are plotting a campaign for Beau's Town that they hope will land him in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

It starts Thursday at Oaklawn Park in the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, in which Beau's Town, the 122-pound highweight, will be an odds-on favorite.

Last year, Beau's Town left the region for what his connections hoped would be national recognition after winning six of his first eight starts, but finished fifth in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt at Saratoga.

That, however, was last year. Beau's Town is a better horse this year, with two stakes wins in two starts, and with a good performance in the Count Fleet, he will be pointed for the Grade 2, $250,000 True North at Belmont Park on June 7 and the Grade 3, $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 12.

The hope is that he will prove himself a candidate for the BC Sprint.

"The race is wide-open right now," said Dave Hulkewicz, who co-owns Beau's Town with Bobby Beck. "Nobody is established as a clear-cut front-runner yet, and I think he fits in the group of question marks for that type of race."

Hulkewicz thought Beau's Town might be sitting on a national breakthrough last year, so he sent him from Louisiana Downs, where he was based with trainer Cole Norman, to Saratoga with Lynn Whiting, who also trains for Hulkewicz.

Before the Vanderbilt, Beau's Town worked a rapid six furlongs and seemed to be sitting on a big race.

"The only time he had the national spotlight he didn't perform, but I give him an excuse," said Hulkewicz.

Beau's Town had stumbled a little bit training one morning before the Vanderbilt, but he galloped out of it and appeared to be fine. After the race, however, he stumbled some more in his gallops, and he was later diagnosed with deep muscle soreness in his shoulder.

A masseuse was hired to work on Beau's Town.

"After we massaged that out, we gave him some time to relax a little bit," said Hulkewicz. "Last year, we just got derailed through the campaign of going through conditions, running in stakes, and shipping around all over the place. It took a little toll on the horse. He got a well-deserved break."

Now 5, he has since resumed training with Norman, third in victories among North American trainers last year and leading the standings at Oaklawn.

"He's the best sprinter I've had my hands on," said Norman. "He stepped up in the Pelleteri last out and ran a powerful race."

Beau's Town won the March 16 Pelleteri Breeders' Cup Handicap at Fair Grounds by 2 3/4 lengths, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 112.

Hulkewicz bought Beau's Town after he was second in his career debut. He won his next six starts. After Beau's Town's win in the Hot Springs at Oaklawn last March, Beck, an auto dealer who races under Coast to Coast Racing Fund, bought into Beau's Town.

"I was still putting Coast to Coast Racing together back then and needed what we called name brand horse that was already somewhat established," said Beck. "I knew he had a lot of talent, and Dave is a good guy to be partners with."

Beau's Town could give Beck a little satisfaction in the Count Fleet. It was three years ago that his Vinnie's Boy finished third in the race to Show Me the Stage.

Both owners are looking forward to Thursday.

"We're going to test him for class these next three races," said Hulkewicz. "I think the horse has the ability to go all the way to the top. Now the business is tough. Injuries are a factor and you've got situations where horses loose their zest for running and they just don't perform. Right now, he's performing, and definitely deserves a shot."