03/25/2008 12:00AM

If Saalb gets to the front, look out

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A different kind of trip for Saalb in the ninth race Thursday at Oaklawn Park could lead to a different result for the horse, who finished fourth as the favorite in his most recent start. Saalb is the speed of the six-furlong allowance feature, and he will be looking for his third win of the meet.

"He didn't get the kind of trip that he likes last time," said Ron Moquett, who trains Saalb for Bowman-Couch Racing. "We like him on the front end, and he never made it to the front."

Saalb raced in fourth for much of that $65,000 optional claiming sprint, run March 15. Before that, he used wire-to-wire tactics to win a $75,000 claiming race Jan. 31 and a $40,000 optional claimer here Feb. 14. Thursday, he is part of a seven-horse field in which several starters are cutting back from two turns. Saalb also gets points on pedigree with his half-sister, Bedazzle, having produced last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense.

Calvin Borel, who was the regular rider on Street Sense, will be aboard Saalb. The horse has stepped up his game considerably this year, and could soon develop into a stakes player.

"We're just taking our time to get him to the better races if we can," said Moquett. "That's our goal. As well as he's bred and as good as he looks, we'd like to justify another career for him later on."

Saalb, a 6-year-old horse by Un bridled, is out of the mare Majestic Legend. She is a half-sister to Mr. Greeley, a multiple Grade 3-winning sprinter of $474,452. Saalb will break from post 3.

"He's got a lot of natural speed," said Moquett. "It's real easy for him to get to full speed in a hurry."

Gate-incident fillies return

Apple Martini and Atlantis City, who will meet in Thursday's eighth race, were among the fillies who had to be pulled up in the stretch of a March 13 route race because the starting gate could not be pulled from the track. That allowance was declared a no-contest.

Apple Martini looks best. On Feb. 17 she was fourth in the first division of the $50,000 Martha Washington. Sky Mom won the race and returned in her next start to capture the $200,000 WinStar Oaks at Sunland, while the runner-up, Maren's Meadow, came back in her next start and won the Grade 3 Bourbonette at Turfway Park.