03/15/2007 12:00AM

First Class Flyer faces another flashy winner


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - There are a number of capable starters in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel at Oaklawn on Saturday, but much of the focus will be on Flying First Class. He put up the year's highest Beyer Speed Figure for a 3-year-old in his last start, when he earned a 107 for a maiden win Feb. 19.

The victory came at six furlongs, a distance considered less than optimum by his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.

"I think he'll handle two turns better than one, which is a scary thought in a lot of ways," Lukas said.

Flying First Class moves to 1 1/16 miles for the Rebel, which serves as a prep for the Gradeo2, $1 million Arkansas Derby. His eight rivals include another flashy maiden winner, Curlin, as well as Grade 3 winners Officer Rocket, Xchanger, and U D Ghetto. The Rebel also drew Teuflesberg, who has won 3 of his last 4 starts, including the $250,000 Southwest here Feb. 19.

Flying First Class has been flattered since his win, with runner-up Vista Moon scoring by 5 3/4 lengths in a maiden race here last weekend. Flying First Class has worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:12 since his win. He will break from post 2 under Edgar Prado.

"We'll let him run his race," said Lukas. "When the running starts, he's going to lay it down for us, because he is a very genuine horse."

Curlin won his debut by 12 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park, leading throughout after breaking sixth of eight in a seven-furlong race Feb. 3. He will break from post 8 under Robby Albarado, and will be making his first start for trainer Steve Asmussen.

"I think he'll be a little slower away from the gates than a couple in the field, just from his personality," said Asmussen. "He'll find his spot, hopefully get in a nice rhythm."

Teuflesberg wired the field in the Southwest. He will break from post 4 under Stewart Elliott.

"He can go to the front. He can come from off the pace," said Jamie Sanders, who trains Teuflesberg.

Officer Rocket overcame trouble to close quickly for second in the Southwest.

"There should be a pretty good pace," said Bob Holthus, who trains Officer Rocket. "He's probably going to be five, six lengths off the lead. Hopefully, he can pick them up."

The Rebel will be shown live on ESPN.