04/01/2010 11:00PM

Dakota Phone leads strong group of invaders


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - They have come from all over the map for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. Dakota Phone and Delightful Kiss exit at Gulfstream. Awaiting them is Win Willy, who is looking for his third win at the meet.

"We wanted to try some of our horses in different places," said Jerry Hollendorfer, who is based in California and trains Dakota Phone. "But we're not coming in thinking this is an easy spot."

A 1 1/8-mile race, the Oaklawn Handicap continues the Racing Festival of the South, in which at least one stakes a day is run over the final six programs of the meet, closing with the Arkansas Derby on April 10.

Dakota Phone should get support off his third-place finish behind Misremembered in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6. Dakota Phone is weighted at 116 pounds in the seven-horse field and will be the second highweight, behind Win Willy, who will carry 117.

Dakota Phone will be making a rare start on dirt Saturday.

"He's had a work or two on the training track at Santa Anita," Hollendorfer said of the dirt surface available back home. "We think he'll handle the dirt. He handled it well at Pomona when he ran there."

Dakota Phone's lone dirt start came in the Pomona Derby at Fairplex in September 2008. He will break from post 7 under Martin Garcia and cuts back from 1 1/4 miles to a distance Hollendorfer said he handles well. The last time Dakota Phone ran at 1 1/8 miles, he was second by a head in in February.

Dakota Phone is also appealing because he can be closer to the pace than Win Willy and Delightful Kiss, who was eighth in the Santa Anita Handicap. Win Willy used his closing kick to score a 3 3/4-length win in here March 6, earning a 102 Beyer Speed Figure.

"I was happy with the move he made on the turn," said Mac Robertson, who trains Win Willy. "It appeared to be a winning move right away. Anytime you run in those tough races, if you have a horse that looks like the winner at the three-eighths pole, you've got a pretty good horse."

Win Willy also won an allowance here in January and is 4 for 6 at Oaklawn. Cliff Berry has the mount from post 3.

"Obviously, the more pace, the more shot he'll have," Robertson said.

Duke of Mischief was eighth to division leader Quality Road in the Grade 1 Donn on Feb. 6.

"We chased an awful tough horse around there," said David Fawkes, who trains Duke of Mischief. "They went really, really fast. They set a new track record. All in all, it was a strenuous race on him, and I think he bled a little bit on us."

Duke of Mischief was given time to regroup and can make an impact if he runs back to his win in the Grade 3 Ft. Lauderdale at Gulfstream in January. Eibar Coa has the mount from post 1.