02/26/2003 12:00AM

'Cherokee' iffy for Southwest


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Sir Cherokee will bring more two-turn experience into the $75,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday than most of his rivals - if he goes.

The winter weather that has gripped Oaklawn Park since Monday night is threatening the colt's training schedule, and if he is unable to train Thursday or Friday he could pass the one-mile Southwest and wait for the $125,000 Rebel here March 22, trainer Michael Tomlinson said on Wednesday.

Entries for the Southwest were to be taken Thursday.

Sir Cherokee has already beat the weather once this week, getting a bullet five-furlong work in on Monday. Later that night, it began to sleet and snow, and as a result of the freezing temperatures, training was canceled on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We'll have to see if the weather cooperates or not," said Tomlinson.

Sir Cherokee made his 3-year-old debut a winning one Feb. 8. Despite being trapped on the final turn and into the stretch, he persevered for a 1 3/4-length win in a one-mile conditioned allowance at Oaklawn. The race was his first start since he rallied from 20 lengths back to finish fourth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30.

In his final prep for the Southwest, Sir Cherokee breezed in 1:01.80. "He worked very nice," said Tomlinson. "We were scheduled to work Tuesday, but watching the weather, we backed it up."

James Lopez has the mount in the Southwest, which had four other locals considered probable as of Wednesday.

The uncoupled pair of Alke and Premier Rocket are expected to go for trainer Bob Holthus. Also on the list of probables is the Cole Norman-trained Comic Truth, who was second to Outta Here last out in the $500,000 Delta Jackpot, and Great Notion, who was second to Champali last out in the $50,000 Prevue at Turfway Park for trainer Darrin Miller.

Rematch in feature

Quick Claim, E E Trap, and Bringem Jung, who ran 1-2-3 in a $50,000 claiming race in their last starts, meet again Friday in the featured ninth race, a two-other-than allowance at six furlongs worth $32,000.

The seven-horse field also includes Expensive Risk, who rallied from last for third in a 5 1/2-furlong race last out, and Cold Stone Steve, who just missed at this level Feb. 20.

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