01/31/2007 1:00AM

Key race points out Red Raymond


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Red Raymond comes out of one of the most productive races run anywhere this winter. Second in that race, he should start as a strong favorite in Friday's featured ninth race at Oaklawn Park.

Red Raymond can become the sixth horse to exit a Dec. 10 optional claimer at Fair Grounds and win his next start. He will face eight other rivals in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer here Friday, among them Codasco, an allowance winner at Churchill Downs, and the Grade 3-placed Woody's Apache.

Red Raymond rallied to finish a half-length behind winner Well Said in the Fair Grounds optional claimer, run around two turns. Since that race, Well Said has finished second in another optional claimer and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100. Five horses that finished behind Well Said and Red Raymond returned to win their next start, all at Fair Grounds.

The third-place finisher, Crossword, won an optional claimer with a Beyer of 88; the fourth-place finisher, Saint Anddan, won an optional claimer with a Beyer of 98; the seventh-place finisher, Mr. Meso, won a $35,000 claimer with a Beyer of 94; the eighth-place finisher, Old Colony, won a $25,000 claiming race with a Beyer of 92; and the ninth-place finisher, Superstone, won a $35,000 claimer with a Beyer of 81.

Red Raymond is returning to Oaklawn, where last year he ran third in the $250,000 Southwest and second in the Grade 3 Rebel.

"He really likes this track," said Bob Holthus, who trains Red Raymond. "He's been working well. In fact, every time he's worked it's practically been a bullet work, so I think he'll put in a good effort."

Red Raymond will break from post 6 under Luis Quinonez.

"He stays back quite a little ways," said Holthus. "In New Orleans, he was probably seven, eight lengths off the lead and he just missed. Next stride he was in front. But they didn't write the race that way."

Also on the card, Westwon - a troubled seventh in the $50,000 Dixieland - will make his two-turn debut in the eighth race, an optional claimer for 3-year-olds at a mile that should produce starters for the Southwest here Feb. 19. Last fall, Westwon won his maiden at Keeneland. He will add blinkers Friday.

"I think he's going to be a better two-turn horse," said trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "We've got high hopes for him going two turns."