03/24/2005 1:00AM

Deputy Storm gets his wish


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Deputy Storm, who is a top candidate for next month's Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park, is forcing his trainer, Ralph Nicks, to run him Saturday in the $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes.

"I had planned on skipping this one, but he's just doing so well," said Nicks.

won the first stakes in the Oaklawn sprint series on Feb. 5, leading throughout for a head win in the $50,000 King Cotton.

Since the race, Deputy Storm has worked four consecutive bullets, a testament to his stunning natural speed. On Saturday, he should be favored in a strong field of five that is completed by the quick Wildcat Shoes, Grade 3 winner Level Playingfield, King Cotton runner-up Engineered, and stalker That Tat.

"Nothing's a pushover in the sprints in the Midwest," said Nicks. "They always seem to come up with some good sprinters."

For his King Cotton victory, Deputy Storm earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 105, and since the race he has been flattered multiple times.

Level Playingfield, the third-place finisher in the King Cotton, came back to win an optional claiming allowance and earn a 100 Beyer. And then there is Wildcat Shoes, a close sixth in the King Cotton who returned to win an optional claiming allowance and earn a 105 Beyer Figure for running six furlongs in a meet-best time of 1:09.60.

Nicks looks for Deputy Storm to race on the lead again Saturday.

"That's pretty much him," he said. "The way he is now, they're going to have to be fast to be in front of him. We don't leave there with the idea of putting him on the lead. He puts himself there."

Luis Quinonez, who rode Deputy Storm for the first time in the King Cotton, has the return call. James Spence owns Deputy Storm, a son of Forestry. His dam, Deputy Jane West, was a six-time stakes winner with earnings of $593,410.