03/25/2004 12:00AM

Big speed test for Puffy Shirt

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Puffy Shirt could be tested at this meet for the first time Saturday, when she takes on stakes winners See How She Runs, Surf N Sand, and Eternal Cup in the $50,000 Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The Carousel is a six-furlong race for fillies and mares and is the third and final sprint stakes of the meet for the division. Eternal Cup won the first race in the series, the $50,000 American Beauty on Feb. 7, and Surf N Sand won the $50,000 Spring Fever Stakes on March 7.

Puffy Shirt has won both of her starts at the meet in wire-to-wire fashion. She won an entry-level allowance by 7 1/4 lengths at Oaklawn on Feb. 28, then came back and defeated a two-other-than field by 4 1/2 lengths March 13.

Puffy Shirt, who has won three of four starts, will break from the rail Saturday and, with the presence of front-runners Surf N Sand and Winning Fever, could face the most pace pressure she ever has in her career. Puffy Shirt, however, has put up solid fractions in her last two starts and won each of those six furlong races in just over 1:10.

"I trained her daddy, and he would sort of lock in gear and keep throwing the fractions, and she looks like she's capable of doing it," said Jesse Wigginton, who trains Puffy Shirt for Brenda Barnett.

Puffy Shirt is a 4-year-old daughter of stakes winner Gold Spring. Puffy Shirt's dam, Norcliffe Dancer, was a winner of 9 races and $317,035.

Wigginton said one of Puffy Shirt's best qualities is her efficient stride.

"There's no wasted motion," he said.

Tim Doocy, who has ridden Puffy Shirt in each of her last two starts, has the mount Saturday.

See How She Runs and Eternal Cup could benefit if the pace is hot in the Carousel. See How She Runs returned from a layoff last out and came closing for third in the 5 1/2-furlong Spring Fever. The race was her first start since July.

See How She Runs, who is a Grade 2 winner at Oaklawn, is owned by Pin Oak Stable, trained by Donnie Von Hemel, and will be ridden by Don Pettinger.

Von Hemel will also send out Surf N Sand, who is not coupled with See How She Runs. In her last start, Surf N Sand led throughout for a three-quarter length win in the Spring Fever. The race was her first start in blinkers. Earlier in her career, Surf N Sand won five straight races between Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. For the Carousel, John McKee has the mount for owner Charles F. Heider.

Eternal Cup rallied from fifth to win the American Beauty. Terry Thompson has the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Peace Rules highweighted at 120

Peace Rules, who won the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap in his last start, has been highweighted at 120 pounds for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 3.

Saint Liam, who finished a head behind Peace Rules in the New Orleans, is weighted at 114. He is the second-highest weight among those expected to start.

Others considered probable are Private Emblem and Sir Cherokee, both weighted at 113. Others considering the race are Seattle Fitz, 113; Old Faunty, 113; and Star Cross, 112.

Evening Attire is the second highweight for the Oaklawn at 118, followed by Olmodavor at 117.

Peace Rules picks up a pound following his New Orleans win at 119, while Saint Liam will tote the same weight he carried at Fair Grounds.

Peace Rules will attempt to give Edmund Gann, trainer Bobby Frankel, and jockey Jerry Bailey their second straight win in the Oaklawn. Gann, Frankel, and Bailey teamed to win the 1 1/8-mile race last year with Medaglia d'Oro. There were 17 nominees to the Oaklawn Handicap.