02/23/2007 12:00AM

Devil House brings five-race streak to Fantasy

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Devil House has passed every test put before her, and for her next start will face the biggest challenge of her career in the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park on April 6. The Fantasy became the target for Devil House after she won her fifth straight race last weekend in the $50,000 Martha Washington.

"I think she's ready for the next level," said Terry Gestes, who trains Devil House for William Stiritz.

Devil House was making her two-turn debut in the one-mile Martha Washington, and she led throughout to win by 2 1/2 lengths and earn a career-best Beyer Figure of 88. The win was the latest in a streak that began in her second career start, when she won a maiden race at Ellis Park in July. Devil House proceeded to win an allowance in August, the $100,000 Bassinet at River Downs in September, and the $50,000 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn in January.

The Martha Washington is the first of two local preps for the Fantasy, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies. The $100,000 Honeybee at 1 1/16 miles here March 16 is the second, but Gestes plans to skip the race.

"I think that it's kind of a little close for her," he said. "We'll probably plan on missing that. You try and hit too many of those races and she's going to tail off on me a little bit."

Steppenwolfer fifth in comeback

Trainer Dan Peitz was concerned Steppenwolfer would not have enough pace to fuel his late run when he made his 4-year-old debut Friday in an allowance race at Oaklawn - and the race set up as Peitz expected. Steppenwolfer finished fifth behind a dawdling pace, beaten 4 3/4 lengths by winner Prayer Service ($17.60).

Peitz said Steppenwolfer remains on deck for the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap here on March 9.

"The main thing is he comes back good," said Peitz. "In two weeks, we'll have a little more pace, and we'll look for his 'A' race."

Sampson's Son set the pace in the allowance, leading the field through fractions of 24.83 seconds for the opening quarter and 49.59 for the half-mile mark, as Steppenwolfer raced in fifth down the backside. Sampson's Son continued to lead through six furlongs in 1:14.54 until Prayer Service overtook him and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.10.

The allowance was Steppenwolfer's first start since finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes last June.

Backup plan for Hard Spun

Hard Spun, who suffered the first defeat of his career last week after a wide trip from post 9 in the one-mile Southwest Stakes, remains on course to start next in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel here March 17. But if he were to draw a poor post for the race, there is an alternate game plan, his trainer, Larry Jones, said on Thursday.

"Plan 1 is here," Jones said of the Rebel. "The 1A is Turfway a week later."

The Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End will be run at Turfway Park on March 24.

Hard Spun, who won the first four starts of his career by 28 lengths, finished fourth, three lengths behind winner Teuflesberg, in the Southwest. The winner broke from post 4, and shipped here from Fair Grounds after scratching out of the Grade 3 Risen Star.

"Teuflesberg set a very good example," said Jones. "He drew the 13-hole at New Orleans and wasn't afraid to scratch, and came up here and got the money. They were very smart."

Jones said Hard Spun has done well since the Southwest.

"He ran very courageous," he said. "We know that if horses surround him, he doesn't chicken out. He did fine."

Hard Spun earned a Beyer Figure of 95 in the Southwest, the same number he earned for his win in the Grade 3 Lecomte.