03/19/2003 1:00AM

Great Notion works himself into Rebel start


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Darrin Miller had considered passing Saturday's $125,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park with Great Notion, but after the colt trained sharply Wednesday, he will be entered in the race, the final local prep for the Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby.

Great Notion established himself as the top 3-year-old on the grounds earlier this month when he romped by nine lengths in the $75,000 Southwest Stakes. He came out of the race with a little bruising on the soles of his feet, and Miller has been taking a day-to-day approach with the colt, who worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Sunday.

"As it stands right now, we're going to go ahead and enter in the Rebel," said Miller. "I was very happy with the way he went today. He was very strong and very focused, and I felt like he was right where he needed to be mentally."

Miller's concern was that Great Notion came out of his work completely comfortable on his feet.

"So far everything looks good, but we're still taking it day by day," he said.

Great Notion earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 for his victory in the Southwest and is considered the horse to beat in the Rebel. Terry Thompson will have the mount on Saturday.

Sir Cherokee may get more pace

No colt was at a greater disadvantage in the Southwest than the fourth-place finisher, Sir Cherokee. A closer, he was 10 lengths behind the wire-to-wire winner, Great Notion, early in the race, and he also had a shorter stretch to negotiate than usual, because one-mile races end at the sixteenth pole at Oaklawn.

"When I saw the way the race set up, with Darrin's colt out on a very slow lead, I knew we were cooked," said Mike Tomlinson, who trains Sir Cherokee for Domino Stud.

Things should be different Saturday, when Sir Cherokee goes back in the Rebel. The race, at 1 1/16 miles, will end at the regular finish line, and Tomlinson is thankful for the added distance, and hopeful there will be more pace.

Tomlinson said that although he wasn't certain exactly who would be starting, from the stakes nominations "it looks like there's some more horses with speed in there. We'll see if they go or not. I know my colt is training very forwardly, and very well."

Sir Cherokee worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Tuesday. He will be ridden by James Lopez.

Pie's Lil Brother goes for four in row

Pie's Lil Brother will shoot for his fourth straight win Friday in the featured 10th race, a six-furlong optional claimer that also drew Cowboy Stuff, a stakes winner; and U.S. Jets, a Keeneland allowance winner.

Pie's Lil Brother has not been beaten since he underwent minor throat surgery last summer. His streak dates back to August, when he won a two-other-than allowance at Hoosier Park.

After taking the winter off, Pie's Lil Brother returned Feb. 1 and won a $40,000 claiming race, then took a three-other-than allowance Feb. 9. Both races were at Oaklawn, where he is 5 for 8.

Overall, the gelding has won 6 of 14 starts, and his strong win record is no surprise considering his family. Pie's Lil Brother is a younger half-brother to Pie in Your Eye, who won 29 races in his career and earned $338,962.

"He's got a lot of characteristics of his older brother," said Stanley Roberts, who co-owns and trains Pie's Lil Brother.

Roberts trained Pie in Your Eye later in his career, when the gelding was claimed by owner Tom Floyd.

"After he was done racing, Tom Floyd said to find him a good home," said Roberts. "He gave him to a neighbor who had one old mare and wanted a buddy for her. They live on 25 acres. He runs around out there like he's a 2-year-old."

Roberts and a partner, Rick Turman, bought Pie's Lil Brother a few years ago at a 2-year-old in training sale because of his family. Rodney Trader has the mount Friday.