03/21/2003 1:00AM

Cojet the speed of Hot Springs six


HOT SPRINGS, Ark - The $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Sunday was flung wide open last week when the top sprinter on the grounds, Beau's Town, shipped to Fair Grounds and won the $150,000 Pelleteri Breeders' Cup.

His absence makes the Hot Springs more evenly matched, and probably helped it attract a few more starters.

"With him in the mix, it would have been pretty thin," said trainer Don Von Hemel, who will start Sand Ridge. "But with him out of the picture, I think they've got a chance to get six or seven horses.

"And there will be three or four logical horses that could win if things go right for them."

The six-furlong Hot Springs ended up drawing a field of six horses, including Cojet, who has more early speed than most in the field; Big Bad George; and the late-running Chindi.

Sand Ridge, now 8, also runs late, and comes into the Hot Springs on the heels of a second-place finish to Big Bad George in an optional claimer Feb. 23. The race was Sand Ridge's first since September, and it earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 104.

"I thought his last race was a super effort," said Von Hemel, who trains Sand Ridge for Thunderhead Farms. "He made up a lot of ground, and got beat a head or so on a track that was favoring speed, and he had to come from quite a ways back.

"He seems to be doing as good or better right now than he's ever done in his life. He's just a solid old trooper."

Sand Ridge, a winner of 15 out of 44 races and $600,899, will be ridden by Ken Shino.

Cojet will be tough to handle if he runs back to his efforts at Fair Grounds. He was second in that track's $75,000 Gaudin on Dec. 22, then came back and won the $75,000 Colonel Power on Jan. 12.

The Colonel Power victory sent him to post as the favorite in the $50,000 King Cotton at Oaklawn on Feb. 1, in which he finished fifth. After the race, trainer Bob Holthus said he felt the two trips to New Orleans might have taken something out of Cojet, and he has since taken care to freshen him up for the Hot Springs.

Cojet has worked two bullets since the King Cotton, and could prove tough to run down under Jon Court. He will be making his first start for Loraine Jones, whose husband, Dan, died last week. Dan Jones won the Hot Springs twice in partnership, with Overpeer in 1991 and Potentiality in 1992.

for Oaklawn entries.

Subscribers: to purchase past performances for Oaklawn.

Non-subscribers: to purchase past performances for Oaklawn.