03/26/2003 12:00AM

Another tough spot

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Ruling Star, who just missed against stakes winner Cowboy Stuff in his last start, will not have to face him again Friday in Oaklawn's featured 10th race, a six-furlong allowance worth $34,000.

But Ruling Star will meet the comebacking Richest Half, who won the $50,000 Mountain Valley at Oaklawn in 2002, and the Ron Moquett-trained entry of Devil's Dust and Cold Stone Steve.

Ruling Star lost a nose decision to Cowboy Stuff in his last start, and since that race Cowboy Stuff has returned to win an optional claimer at Oaklawn.

Cole Norman trains Ruling Star for K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman and has given the mount to Jamie Theriot.

Klesaris, king of claims

No trainer has claimed more horses here this season than newcomer Robert Klesaris, who, going into the races Wednesday, had claimed 18. Leading trainer Norman is next on the list with 16.

Klesaris, who is based in New York, sent a string to Oaklawn for the first time this year and had four horses claimed from him over the three-day opening weekend. Overall, he had lost nine to claims as of Tuesday.

"It's been an active meet," said Klesaris. "We lost a lot and we claimed a lot. I claimed a lot of 3-year-olds to take back East."

Klesaris said following this meet, some of the horses he has here will race at Delaware Park.

Claiming activity at Oaklawn has been brisk as usual. Going into the races Wednesday, an average of four horses a day had been claimed through 38 days for a total of 157 horses selling for $2,119,000.

Last year, an average of 3.6 horses a day were claimed during the 52-day meet. All told, 191 horses changed hands last year for receipts of $3,030,500.

The highest-priced claims this meet have been two horses that sold for $50,000. Trainer Don Von Hemel claimed Watch Your Pennies for that amount Feb. 14 on behalf of owner Robert Barnett, while trainer Randy Morse spent $50,000 to claim Eyebrow Raiser for client Michael Langford on March 8.

Another Veitch in the Hall?

Trainer John Veitch, who has a string of horses based at Oaklawn this year for the first time, will try to become the latest son of a Hall of Famer to enter racing's Hall. His nomination was announced last week. His father, Sylvester Veitch, was inducted in 1977.

Other father-son teams in the Hall include Preston and Elliott Burch and Marion and Jack Van Berg.

"It's a great honor to be thought of in those terms," Veitch said of the nomination. "It was really one of my father's most joyous days when he was elected."

It was fitting that Veitch, who trained four champions, learned of his nomination at Oaklawn. He has had some memorable stakes wins with horses shipping to the track, and two barns here are named for horses he trained: Alydar and Davona Dale.

"When I first started, [my first major stakes win] was right here, in the Fantasy with Our Mims in 1977," said Veitch. "She was one of the first champions that Calumet had had in a long time."

Veitch won the Fantasy again in 1979 with eventual champion Davona Dale. His other champions were Before Dawn and Sunshine Forever.

"I've got to have one more champion," said Veitch. "My father had five. I've only had four.

"They're tough to come by. In those first years of Calumet I thought it was pretty easy. In all of 7 1/2 years, I had three champions and the useful horse Alydar."