08/29/2001 11:00PM

El Joven matches speedy pair on turf


Halo of Hearts and Premeditation, who both won their last races in front-running fashion, could vie for both favoritism and the lead Saturday night in the $100,000 El Joven. The one-mile race for 2-year-olds shares the program with its filly counterpart, the $100,000 La Senorita, and together the stakes make for one of the richest nights of racing at Retama Park.

Halo of Hearts will try to make it three in a row in the El Joven, which drew a full field of 12. The colt registered a 9 3/4-length front-running maiden win in his second career start July 7, then proved he could carry his speed around two turns in his most recent race, a 7 1/2-furlong allowance race on the turf at Louisiana Downs on

Aug. 10.

"He's a nice, long-striding colt who can get it in gear real fast," said trainer Sam David Jr. "He's got a quick turn of foot."

In his final prep for the El Joven, Halo of Hearts worked five furlongs in 1:02 over the Louisiana Downs turf course on Monday.

"We worked him back on the turf because we wanted to give him a little more experience over it," said David, who has given the mount to David Neusch. "He handled it super. I'm excited about our chances."

Halo of Hearts has displayed a little more early speed in his races than has Premeditation, a $190,000 yearling purchase who has won two of his three career starts with speed to spare. In his most recent race he romped by 6 3/4 lengths in the local prep for the El Joven.

"I think he'll run as far as we want him to, and at this stage of the game he seems to handle the grass well," said trainer Bill Leach, who has given the mount to Corey Lanerie.

Another to watch is French Assault, who was beaten a half-length by Halo of Hearts in his last start Aug. 10. Before that race, French Assault was an 8 1/2-length winner of a two-turn maiden turf race at Lone Star Park for trainer Keith Desormeaux.

The threat of rain Saturday night had little effect on entries for the La Senorita, which drew a field of 11.

Victory Road, winner of the local prep for the race, heads a field that includes Miss Ritz, winner of the $100,000 Silver Spur Stakes at Lone Star on July 15, and Red Little Lies, a 5 1/2-length maiden winner around two turns on turf Aug. 18.