09/30/2009 11:00PM

Hot n' Dusty tireless so far in '09

Vassar Photography
Lady Railrider, second in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, has not raced since April, but has done well off past layoffs.

ARCADIA, Calif. - For some horses, 16 races is a career. For Hot n' Dusty, it's 8 1/2 months' work. Hot n' Dusty is a throwback, a horse who keeps running, and keeps firing. She ran six times in a little more than two months at Hollywood Park earlier this year, and at Del Mar ran four times in five weeks. Already this year, she has run 16 times. And considering how she responds to that aggressive management, look for trainer Barry Abrams to keep up the pace the rest of the year.

"She enjoys racing. The more she runs, the better she gets," Abrams said Thursday morning.

Start number 17 of 2009 comes on Saturday at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, when Hot n' Dusty heads a field of five in the $100,000 California Cup Matron, a 1 1/16-mile race on Pro-Ride for fillies and mares. She is the first of five runners Abrams has in four races on the Cal Cup card. Every one of them is sired by Unusual Heat.

"If everything goes perfect, we should have a big day," Abrams said.

Hot n' Dusty finished first or second in all four of her races at Del Mar. She most recently was second in the Adoration Stakes on Sept. 7. The 26 days between starts is her longest break of the year.

"She's very consistent," Abrams said. "I'd be disappointed if she doesn't come in first or second."

Hot n' Dusty will carry 121 pounds, equal to the assignment given Lady Railrider. In contrast to Hot n' Dusty, Lady Railrider needs to be managed carefully. The Matron will be her first start since April. But her trainer, Steve Specht, said he expects a top effort.

"I've laid it pretty good to her, and she's handled it well," Specht said Thursday morning. "It's not the same as running, but she's a good work horse. If she's as fit as I hope she is, I don't think she'll get beat."

That's not idle boasting. Earlier this year, Lady Railrider was a sharp second to Leah's Secret in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, also at Santa Anita, also at 1 1/16 miles on Pro-Ride. She also has a history of running well fresh.

"We've always dealt with bad feet with her," Specht said. "That's really her only issue. She has thin hoof walls that break easily. You can only run her so many times. Last year, I did the same thing, gave her the summer off to let her feet grow out. Right now, she's doing great. Her feet are in pretty good shape. They're never perfect. I always hold my breath, hoping she doesn't lose a shoe."

Smooth Performer is the other major player in the race. Since returning from a 10 1/2-month layoff in June, she has won twice in three starts, including the E.B. Johnston Stakes at Fairplex on Sept. 12.

Ale's Pride still has first-level allowance conditions, and is unproven at this distance, but she has the speed to, at the least, be an early factor.

Gambler's Justice was fifth as the favorite in the Johnston. She also should be prominent early.