04/09/2007 11:00PM

Kid Grindstone set to defend his title

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Kid Grindstone appears poised to run back to one of his best races on Thursday, when he defends his title in the $100,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn Park. The 1o1/16-mile race is for older horses, and it continues the Racing Festival of the South, when at least one stakes a day is run over the final six cards of the meet, which closes Saturday.

Among Kid Grindstone's rivals in the field of eight are Silent Pleasure, who has back-to-back stakes wins at Delta Downs, and Flanders Fields, who is by A.P. Indy and out of Flanders.

Kid Grindstone last raced March 9, running sixth in the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback at Oaklawn. Magna Graduate won the race and, a start later, also won the Grade 3 Excelsior at Aqueduct. Kid Grindstone, meanwhile, worked a bullet four furlongs in 47.20 seconds here last weekend and appears set to run back to his win two starts ago in the $72,000 Tenacious at Fair Grounds on Dec. 2.

"For whatever reason, he's dramatically improved since that last race," said Mike Campbell, who trains Kid Grindstone for Wexler Stables. "That last workout, I think, is indicative of that. I think the horse is going to run a great race."

In the Razorback, which was Kid Grindstone's first start after a three-month freshening, he broke from the rail and had a troubled trip.

"They all just slowed the pace down to a crawl, and when that happened, it forced me back on the inside so I lost ground," said Campbell.

"He needed the race more than what I had anticipated."

Kid Grindstone drew post 7 for Thursday.

"Hopefully, he won't get in trouble out there, and it will give us the ability of plotting a more strategical course," said Campbell. "I think he'll be mid-pack, or maybe slightly forward of that."

Regular rider Jesse Campbell again has the mount.

* Curlin heads a probable field of eight for the Grade 2, $1omillion Arkansas Derby on Saturday. Also expected to run are Deadly Dealer, Delightful Kiss, Flying First Class, For You Reppo, Officer Rocket, and Storm in May. In addition, trainer Donnie Von Hemel is expected to start either Going Ballistic or Slew By Slew.