02/06/2007 1:00AM

Any of six could win sprint feature


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - After a one-week hiatus from racing brought about by a winter blast, Oaklawn springs back into action on Thursday with sprinters Smoke Smoke Smoke, Monkey Hill, Urban Guy, and Marq French matching speed in the featured eighth race. The $80,000 optional claimer will be run at six furlongs, and is part of a pick six that has a carryover of $60,007.

There is little separating the six horses in the field, which also drew Pro Prado, a winner of $215,700 at Oaklawn who is making his first start since finishing second in an $80,000 optional claimer at Churchill Downs in November.

"It's a tough sprint race his first time back," said Bob Holthus, who trains Pro Prado.

Smoke Smoke Smoke has a recency edge on that rival, having last raced Dec. 30. He returns to the overnight ranks here after finishing second to Grade 3 winner Straight Line in the $50,000 Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park. Prior to that, Smoke Smoke Smoke was second to Grade 3 winner Storm Surge in an $80,000 optional claimer at Churchill in November and sixth in a $100,000 optional claimer at Hawthorne in his first start back from a layoff in October.

"Hopefully, he's rounding into form," said Mac Robertson, who trains multiple stakes winner Smoke Smoke Smoke. "He's run three times and every race was a little better, so hopefully, he continues to improve."

Smoke Smoke Smoke will break from post 6 under Eddie Razo Jr.

"We want to be outside the speed and hope somebody goes and we can lap on them," said Robertson. "Anytime you're in a short field, you like to be outside. We'll just let him break and sit and try and race second or third and try to pounce them."

Smoke Smoke Smoke could track Urban Guy, a stakes winner here last year who has been working bullets for his first start since July, and Marq French, who has used his speed to win his last three races. In his last start, Marq French won a six-furlong allowance over Jonesboro, who returned one race later to capture the $100,000 Sam's Town at Delta Downs.

Monkey Hill is another who could benefit if a duel develops. He is in post 5, and would be tough to beat if he ran back to the Beyer Figure of 104 that he earned for his close fourth in the $75,000 Bonapaw at Fair Grounds two starts back on Dec. 23.