03/15/2004 1:00AM

Key factors point to K.J.'s Gold

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Although there seems to be little separating most of the entrants in Wednesday's featured eighth race at Oaklawn Park, it is easy to build a case for K.J.'s Gold.

He will face eight others in the 1 1/16-mile entry-level allowance, including quality comebackers Pike Place Gold, Rush Around, and Wind in Your Face. The purse is $32,000.

K.J.'s Gold gets points for having a recent race, an inside post, natural speed, good company lines, and the field's highest last-race Beyer Speed Figure. Also, the distance of the race could make for a kinder pace scenario than he had at one mile in his last start Feb. 19.

"I think it could be a little easier for him to make the lead," said Steve Wren, who trains K.J.'s Gold.

K.J.'s Gold set the early pace in his last start, when he finished second, beaten a neck, in an entry-level allowance at Oaklawn.

"I thought he could have won the race," said Wren. "Go Legs Go caught me late, and he came back and ran a big race the other day, so we're excited."

Go Legs Go returned to run a game second to the graded-stakes-placed Defrere's Vixen in a tough optional claimer at Oaklawn.

K.J.'s Gold, who does not appear to have many pace rivals Wednesday, will be making his third start back from a layoff. He drew post 3 and will be ridden by Terry Thompson.

Pike Place Gold will be making his first start since Oct. 22. He moves back to dirt, surface of his maiden win, and shows some nice local works for his first start at Oaklawn, and his first for leading trainer Cole Norman.

Pike Place Gold, who last fall raced at Delaware Park, is very well-bred. He is by Seeking the Gold and out of Pike Place Dancer, who won the Kentucky Oaks. Jamie Theriot has the mount.

Another well-bred contender is Rush Around, who is a half-brother to Grade 2 winners Fun House and Early Flyer. Rush Around, who is by Wild Rush, is also returning from a layoff - he last raced Oct. 19 - but he is no stranger to Oaklawn.

He was a maiden winner at the track last year, and also finished second in the $75,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup on the Arkansas Derby undercard April 12.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has given the mount to leading rider John McKee.