01/30/2004 12:00AM

Crafty Shaw's lofty goals reachable

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Crafty Shaw, whose goal this season is to reach $1 million in earnings, will make his debut as a 6-year-old on Sunday in a one-mile allowance that will serve as his stepping-stone to the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 3.

The $40,000 allowance, which will go as the ninth on a 10-race card that has a special post of 1 p.m. Central, drew a field of five older horses. It should produce starters for the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap on Feb. 21. Others in the race are Maysville Slew, Missme, Smileyberg, and Docent.

Crafty Shaw, an earner of $850,440, won the Essex in 2002, and is being pointed for that race again this year in a campaign that is also scheduled to include starts in the $100,000 Razorback on March 14 and the Oaklawn Handicap. Along with the goal of hitting $1 million in earnings, Crafty Shaw's other objective this year is to win his first Grade 1.

Achieving the two goals would enhance his value at stud. So far, Crafty Shaw has won 13 races, with his most recent wins coming in an allowance at Churchill Downs and the $103,000 Schaefer Mile at Hoosier Park.

Jockey Craig Perret was aboard for both of those wins, and will be in to ride on Sunday when Crafty Shaw makes his first start since finishing an uncharacteristic 11th in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap.

"We gave him 30 days off after his last start, in November," said Pete Vestal, who trains Crafty Shaw for Oaklawn president Charles Cella. "We laid him off just to give him a little breather."

Vestal said Crafty Shaw has been eager in his training since returning to the track, and seems to be sitting on a big season. "He wants to compete," said Vestal. "With a little luck, we'll get everything done this year."

The chief threat to Crafty Shaw in the allowance on Sunday could be Docent, who won back to back stakes in Maryland in September and October. James Lopez has the mount for trainer Tim Ritchey.

Crafty Shaw, who is an eight-time stakes winner, might have run the best race of his career in defeat, when he was a game second to Lido Palace in the 2002 running of the Clark. He is one of a small number of horses Cella keeps in training. Others that Vestal manages for Cella include a promising maiden named Amanuensis.

"She's a nice 3-year-old filly," said Vestal. "She's got a lot of class. When she first came in, you could see she was a very intelligent horse. She likes to learn, and does everything we ask of her, so we have some high hopes for her."

Cella said he inherited his interest in breeding and racing from his great uncle, Louis Cella, who was one of the founding partners of Oaklawn.

"My great uncle, he did breed horses, and once he needed some cash and sold a mare in foal for $600," said Cella. The mare produced the great racehorse Wise Counselor, he said.

One of Charles Cella's best horses was Northern Spur, a turf champion who earned $1.6 million and who sired Amanuensis.

Pie N Burger possible for Essex

Crafty Shaw will face a competitive group when he gets into stakes company this meet at Oaklawn. Other top handicap horses on the grounds include Pie N Burger, who had been given some time off and will be nominated to the Essex, and Roar of the Tiger, a full brother to Giant's Causeway who won a $75,000 optional claimer Jan. 24.

Roar of the Tiger is trained by Lynn Whiting, while Cole Norman trains Pie N Burger, who in his last start won the $150,000 Seabiscuit on the Breeders' Cup undercard at Santa Anita.

* Jockey Carlos Marquez, Jr., who suffered a collapsed lung and four broken ribs in a spill Jan. 24, has been released from the hospital, according to officials with Oaklawn. Marquez was one of three riders who went down in a chain-reaction spill. Roman Chapa and Luis Quinonez, who were also involved in the incident, escaped injury and have since been riding at Oaklawn.

* Oaklawn began drawing its Wednesday and Thursday cards early last year, and that will be the case again this week when the track moves back into a five-day a week racing schedule. Wednesday's cards will be drawn on Saturday, and Thursday's programs will be set on Monday. The racing office will be dark on Tuesdays.