04/07/2003 11:00PM

It's Beau's Town - on two levels

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Hot Springs is "Beau's" town. A perfect 4 for 4 at Oaklawn Park, top regional sprinter Beau's Town will be an odds-on favorite Thursday, when he goes after the meet's biggest prize for older sprinters in the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap.

Beau's Town has been assigned top weight of 122 pounds, and will spot his five local rivals between six and nine pounds in the six-furlong race, which is part of the Racing Festival of the South. The field includes Honor Me, Chindi, and Sand Ridge - the first three finishers of the $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes here March 23.

Beau's Town skipped that race for the $150,000 Pelleteri at Fair Grounds on March 16, which he won by 2 3/4 lengths, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 112.

"If he runs that race over, he'll be hard to beat," said Cole Norman, who trains Beau's Town. "I mean, it was awesome. Awesome. And he came out of it fine. On his first day back to the track after the race, it didn't look like it took anything out of him.

"I wouldn't change anything with him right now."

Even if he did not have a perfect record at Oaklawn, and two stakes wins from two starts this year, Beau's Town's versatility would make him a leading contender in the Count Fleet. He has the natural speed to control the pace, but also can stalk.

"The dangerous part about him is that he's a tactical sprinter," said David Hulkewicz, who co-owns Beau's Town with Robert Beck.

Jamie Theriot has the mount Thursday.

Chindi, a closer who won the Count Fleet in 1998, is now 9, but has been working sharper than usual all meet. In both starts this meet, he rallied strongly against slow fractions, finishing second in an optional claimer and the Hot Springs.

"He's just rejuvenated this year," said Steve Hobby, who trains Chindi for Cresran stable. "I think he'll run big. Somebody's just got to take a little starch out of Beau's Town for me."

Don Von Hemel, who trains Sand Ridge, another stakes-winning closer, is hoping for the same thing.

"I'd like to see a quick pace," said Von Hemel. "If we get a quick pace, it always gives horses like Sand Ridge and Chindi a little better chance to catch up, and hopefully we'll be in front of Chindi and make our run before he makes his."

Ken Shino has the mount on Sand Ridge for Thunderhead Farms. Tim Doocy, regular rider on Chindi, suffered a minor hand injury last week and will not ride Thursday, so the mount goes to Carlos Marquez Jr.