03/26/2007 12:00AM

Count Fleet candidates emerge on several fronts

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A handful of candidates for the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 13 emerged from several different races in the region last week.

Junior College and Semaphore Man, who finished one-two in the $50,000 Hot Springs here Saturday, are likely to meet again in the Count Fleet, while Off Duty, an impressive allowance winner here last Friday, and Cougar Cat, a quick winner of an optional claimer last week at Fair Grounds, could also turn up next in the premier sprint stakes at Oaklawn.

Junior College beat a deep field in the Hot Springs, when he sat just off a hot pace and drove to a three-quarter-length win over Semaphore Man. With the win, Junior College improved his Oaklawn record to 3 for 3. His other wins have come in optional claiming races, one last April and the other in his comeback from a four-month layoff March 3.

"He likes everything here," said Tony Reinstedler, who trains Junior College for Mjaka Stables. "He's done really super here. I'm going to point towards the Count Fleet and let him tell me. If he's ready for it, and up to it, and trains well into it, I'll take a shot at it. It's been my goal with him to try and win that race, so we'll see what happens."

Semaphore Man, third in last year's Count Fleet, won the $50,000 King Cotton here Feb. 9. He raced with the pace in the Hot Springs and finished second under Tim Doocy.

"Tim said he ran good, ran hard," said Kelly Von Hemel, who trains Semaphore Man. "We're still looking at the Count Fleet. He likes this track."

Four Sevens closed well for third in the Hot Springs, but for his next start he might stretch out some, said his trainer, Ronny Werner. Werner also trains Cougar Cat, and said he is a possibility for the Count Fleet. He won a six-furlong race last week at Fair Grounds in a quick 1:09.80.

Off Duty won in his first start of the year last week, when he cruised to a front-running win at six furlongs to improve his record to 5 for 9. With the win, he became possible for the Count Fleet.

"I think we're going to have to consider it," said Lynn Whiting, who trains Off Duty.

Blinkers on for U D Ghetto

U D Ghetto, fifth in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel here March 17 in his first start in 3 1/2 months, will add blinkers for his next race, said Reinstedler. U D Ghetto shipped last week to Churchill Downs, and his next start is to be determined. Last year, he won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park.

"I was happy with his race," Reinstedler said of the Rebel. "He just definitely needed the race. I feel like he has a lot to do to catch up to where he was. He needs to be a little more focused, so I'm going to put some blinkers on him."

Reinstedler said he also feels U D Ghetto will benefit mentally with the move to Churchill.

"You kind of have to keep him guessing at all times," he said. "That's a very important thing to do for him. He likes that. It makes him a little more focused. It challenges him mentally."

Reinstedler is looking at one of three races for U D Ghetto's next start: the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on Aprilo7; the $100,000 Lafayette at Keeneland on April 7; or the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby here on April 14.

Reinstedler has two other up-and-coming 3-year-olds in his barn. Harrow Land improved his career record to 3 for 5 here March 18, when he won his second straight allowance route. He will likely move into a stakes next, said Reinstedler.

"I'd have to think the Arkansas Derby is a possibility, and then I think also the Northern Spur is a possibility," he said.

The $100,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup at a mile will be run on the Arkansas Derby undercard. Moyer's Pond, who won his two-turn debut in an allowance here Saturday, is also under consideration for that race, said Reinstedler, who on Monday was trying to figure out the best spots for each of his 3-year-olds.

"I've got to just try and place them where I feel they'll really be the most competitive," he said. "That's what my job is right now."

Reinstedler has had a strong meet, winning with 8 of 25 starters (32 percent) to rank 10th in the trainer standings. He also is setting up a division at Churchill, where multiple Grade 3 winner Gouldings Green just shipped in following a freshening in Florida.

Trainer Pixley making a comeback

Carlis Pixley, who trained multiple stakes winner Fun to Run, is making a comeback from a serious head injury sustained in 2000. He has trained on and off since then while undergoing surgeries, but is back in full swing now and has two horses at Oaklawn. One of them, Wasabi Mason, was a winner here March 18. His other horse, Pine Siren, runs in the fourth race Wednesday.

"A horse kicked me and tore this ear off and fractured my skull," Pixley said of his right side. "I hadn't been to Oaklawn in a long time."

Pixley still has Fun to Run, an earner of $433,831 who won four consecutive races here in 1998.

"He's turned out in Oklahoma," he said. "He's a good riding horse."