03/03/2003 1:00AM

Great Notion has several stakes options


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The connections of Great Notion, winner of the $75,000 Southwest Stakes here Saturday, are considering three races for the colt's next start: the $125,000 Rebel here or the $500,000 Lane's End at Turfway Park, both March 22, or the $500,000 Arkansas Derby on April 12.

"No firm decisions have been made," said Darrin Miller, who trains Great Notion for Silverton Hills Farm.

Miller wants to see how Great Notion does over the next week or so before plotting the colt's next move. He said Great Notion was "a little tired" after his big win, but he cleaned up all of his feed the night of the Southwest and looked good on Sunday.

The Southwest was Great Notion's first start around two turns, and he used his natural speed to grab the lead soon after the start. He took off when favorite Comic Truth, a three-time stakes winner, came to him in the stretch of the one-mile race, and won by nine lengths. The race ended at the sixteenth pole, as do all one-mile races at Oaklawn.

"I had so much horse left, I could have gone to the second wire without any trouble," said Terry Thompson, who rode Great Notion.

Miller also was pleased with how Great Notion ran through the stretch. "I was very impressed with his final furlong, not being pressed and finishing up the way he did," said Miller. "I thought that was real encouraging."

Miller, 35, is usually based in Kentucky year-round, but this winter decided to try Oaklawn. Before getting into the Thoroughbred business in 1992, he was a Quarter Horse jockey for about five years, competing throughout the Midwest. After he retired, Miller bought and sold Thoroughbreds, then developed young runners for the track, which led to an opportunity to work as a private trainer for Silverton Hills.

The best he has trained, he said, is Great Notion, who would be 4 for 4 if not for a nose loss to Champali in the $50,000 Prevue at Turfway Park.

Emily Ring eyes fourth straight

Emily Ring worked four furlongs in a bullet 47.20 seconds last Sunday in preparation for the $50,000 Spring Fever for fillies and mares on Sunday. The 5 1/2-furlong race is one of two stakes planned this weekend at Oaklawn.

The other is the $75,000 Honeybee for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, which is expected to draw $100,000 Ellis Park Debutante winner Ruby's Reception, who worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:14.60 last Saturday.

The second-fastest work on the tab that morning was turned in by top regional sprinter Beau's Town, who went the distance in 1:15.20.

In her last three starts, Emily Ring has won the $50,000 Holiday Inaugural at Turfway, the $75,000 New Year's Eve Handicap at Mountaineer, and the $50,000 American Beauty at Oaklawn. She is trained by Blackie Huffman.

Walmsley honored by HBPA

Bill Walmsley, who has served as president of the Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association for an unprecedented 12 years, was honored during the organization's annual dinner on Saturday night. Walmsley will not run for president again in 2004, but instead will seek a seat on the board of directors of the Arkansas HBPA.

He is a past president of the National HBPA.

- Bien Nicole, a four-time stakes winner last year, will make her 2003 debut March 15 in the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup, said trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

- Of the 75 horses cataloged to the Feb. 24 Arkansas Winter mixed sale, 53 were sold for total receipts of $191,850, or an average of $3,620.

- There is a $91,496 pick six carryover for Wednesday.