01/03/2002 1:00AM

First stakes stakes for Aloha Bold


Aloha Bold, who is perfect in four career starts, will get a class test Saturday night when he steps into stakes company for the first time in the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

The seven-furlong race has drawn an accomplished field of 12, including Captain Countdown, the defending champ and starting highweight; Boots on Sunday, who is looking to rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash; and Louisiana stakes winners Oak Hall and Two Punch Sonny.

Aloha Bold, already a winner at seven furlongs, has not made a wrong move in four starts. He won his maiden at Keeneland in October at 22-1, and has proceeded to win two conditioned allowance races and an optional claimer. All of his wins have come as a front-runner, and in his last start he covered 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.40 to earn a 107 Beyer Speed Figure - tops among all horses in the Sprint Handicap.

"He's brilliantly quick," said Tom Amoss, who trains Aloha Bold for Stewart Madison. "I've rarely had a horse go undefeated in four starts. The last one I can remember is Sky Blue Pink."

Sky Blue Pink won her first four races in 1997, then became a stakes winner in her fifth out when she captured the Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes over six furlongs at Keeneland. Overall, she earned $300,660.

Aloha Bold's future seems as bright. Amoss said the colt took his game to a new level of professionalism last out when he shed his habit of "playing around" in deep stretch, and also overcame a rival. "He found himself headed for the first time, and passed that test," said Amoss, who has given the mount to Gerard Melancon.

Larry J. Melancon will ride Cowboy Cumbia, the horse most likely to challenge Aloha Bold for the lead. In his last start, the Amos Laborde-trained colt won the $50,000 Spirit of Texas for statebreds by 1 1/2 lengths after running the opening five furlongs of the six furlong race in 56.80 seconds.

If the two duel, the race could set up for Captain Countdown, a winner of $353,935 who makes his second start back from an almost five-month layoff. He also cuts back to his best distance after running second in the $100,000 Star of Texas, a 1 1/16 miles race for statebreds, on Dec. 1. Leading trainer Steve Asmussen has given the mount to Glen Murphy.

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