03/11/2007 11:00PM

Front Court fits well for hot barn vs. older

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Front Court might be the lone 3-year-old in the featured ninth race Wednesday at Oaklawn Park, but he could go favored in the second-level allowance, which drew a competitive group of six.

"I think he fits extremely well in here, even though he's running against older horses," said Chris Richard, who trains Front Court and won with all three of his starters here Sunday.

Front Court has run the best two races of his career during the Oaklawn meet. He rallied for a 1 1/2-length win over Prom Shoes in a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds in his last start, Feb. 19. One start earlier, he was second in an optional claiming race, beaten three-quarters of a length on Jan. 27.

"The horse he ran second to here, The Hitman, came back and ran third in the stakes, and Prom Shoes just won," Richard said. "He's been running against some very quality horses, and I think he's improving. He always shows up. He always runs hard, and I think he's finally really maturing mentally."

Front Court, a son of Doneraile Court who races for Castle Rock Stud and Steve Mongerso, will break from the rail under Eddie Razo Jr.

"He shows real good tactical speed," said Richard. "If it's a slow pace, he'll be on the lead, but if it's a fairly quick pace, you'll see him just no more than two or three lengths off the lead."

Richard is winning races at a 42 percent rate this meet, and ranks third in the trainer standings to leader Steve Asmussen. Richard's runners have won an outstanding 13 of 31 starts following the triple on Sunday, and when racing resumes here Wednesday, he will be shooting for his fourth consecutive win in the second race, with Swinging Bandit. Richard's only other starter on the card is Front Court.

Father Time might be the chief threat to Front Court. He was second last out in a $40,000 optional claimer, and makes his third start off a layoff on Wednesday. Trainer Thad Keller has given the mount to Perry Compton.

Life's Lessons has been flattered since his first-level allowance score Feb. 11, with runner-up Saalb returning to win at the same level in his next start. Mike Campbell trains Life's Lessons and has given the mount to Larry Sterling Jr.

o There is a pick six carryover of $8,209 for Wednesday.