05/06/2004 12:00AM

Blinkers make Beau's Town better


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Beau's Town, who developed into one of the nation's top sprinters last year, will add blinkers Saturday for the $75,000 Ford Express Stakes at Lone Star Park.

The six-furlong race will be his second start of the year, and he will face five others, including Where's the Ring, second to Shake You Down in the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 8; Grand Steal, who is shooting for his third straight win; and That Tat.

Beau's Town is the class of the field. A Grade 2 winner of $503,900, he made his first start since October in the Count Fleet, finishing an even fifth. Since then, Beau's Town shows two quick works, with his latest a bullet four-furlong move in 47 seconds on Monday.

"He's worked twice with blinkers, and he seems to work better with them," said Cole Norman, who trains Beau's Town for Dave Hulkewicz. "I think he's more focused with them."

Eddie Martin Jr. has the mount on Beau's Town, who won the Ford Express in 2002. Norman also trains defending Ford Express champ That Tat, and if either horse wins it would give Norman his third consecutive victory in the Ford Express.

The biggest threat to Norman's uncoupled pair is Where's the Ring. He was game through the stretch in his last start, when he missed catching Shake You Down by a diminishing head in the Count Fleet.

Where's the Ring has good speed, but used stalking tactics last time and could again be tracking the pace in the Ford Express.

"I think he's gotten fairly versatile as far as his running style," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Where's the Ring for Pin Oak Stud. "He's a versatile horse."

Don Pettinger has the mount on Where's the Ring, who has won 6 of 13 starts, including a six-furlong allowance at Lone Star last year in a strong 1:08.80.

Grand Steal has put together allowance wins in his last two starts. In his most recent race, he won a six-furlong allowance at Oaklawn in 1:09.20 April 2.

"He's run two powerful races in a row," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Grand Steal.

Asmussen said he has liked Grand Steal, a 4-year-old son of Grand Slam, from the start.

"He's shown brilliance," he said. "First time out in his maiden race from the 12-hole he got beat [inches] by Eugene's Third Son. I'm still trying to get over that."

* The Ford Express will be televised live in the Dallas market on KDFI Channel 27. Also on Saturday, there will be $1 general admission, parking, hot dogs and drinks at Lone Star.