02/22/2002 12:00AM

Kings Command heads tough prep for Hot Springs


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Kings Command, who earned a 111 Beyer Speed Figure for his explosive win in the $50,000 King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 2, returns Sunday in the first race, a six-furlong allowance that has drawn some of the best sprinters on the grounds, all pointing for the $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 29.

"It looks like all the old gang is back for another round," said trainer Jesse "Sonny" Wigginton, who will send out Bidis, a two-time stakes winner last season at Oaklawn, to meet a field of five that is completed by Sand Ridge, Chindi, and Slider.

Kings Command is the one to beat based on his powerful, 2 1/4-length win in the King Cotton. A closer, he should have a nice pace to chase courtesy of Sand Ridge, Bidis, and Slider. Trainer Bob Holthus has given the mount to Luis Quinonez.

Calvin Borel will ride Bidis, who finished third in the King Cotton, his first start back from a more than six-month layoff. "He should improve," said Wigginton. "He'll be sharper."

Sand Ridge looked sharp winning his comeback from a seven-month layoff, contesting the pace throughout for a four-length win over multiple stakes winner Joyful Tune. Trainer Don Von Hemel has given the mount to Terry Thompson.

Powder to Spring Fever

Powder, who remained perfect in two starts over the local strip Thursday with her impressive five-length allowance win, will make her next start in the $50,000 Spring Fever, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares at Oaklawn on March 10.

In the future, the filly, who is by Broad Brush, could tackle two turns, said Wigginton, who trains Powder for Payson Stud.

"I was more pleased with this race than the one she ran faster earlier in the meet," said Wigginton. "It was a very different style of race. I was pleased because she rated so well. It was the first time we had that occur. It gives you a little thought that she might make the two turns now, and of course, she's bred to do that."

Powder is from the Chief's Crown mare Charette, who is a winning half-sister to stakes winners St. Jovite, Lac Ouimet, L'Carriere, and Salem Drive.

High percentage meet for Craddock

Trainer Kari Craddock, who is winning races at a near 30 percent clip this meet, said wintering at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., has helped her stable get off to the fastest start she has ever had at Oaklawn. The trainer was forced to move south because there was no winter-spring meet this year at her base of Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

"I went down [to Delta Downs] where it was warm, and I kept my horses fit," said Craddock. "I ran some there, and also hauled to New Orleans and Houston some, and came in here with race-ready horses. I think that's why things have gone so well this year."

Craddock has won with 4 of 14 starters this meet, and her average win payoff is a generous $26.65. One of her double-digit winners came Monday when Here Comes Kari won the first race and paid $45.60.

Craddock will try to keep her strong percentage going Sunday when she sends out Red Veneer in the third race, and Rock Me Amadeus in the eighth race. Of the two races, Craddock joked that there would be no strategy involved with Rock Me Amadeus.

"He's a horse with his own personality," the trainer said. "He does whatever he wants to do. Sometimes he goes to the lead, sometimes he comes from dead last."

Cliff Berry has the mount on Rock Me Amadeus.

Winter mixed sale Monday

A total of 132 horses have been cataloged for the Arkansas Winter Mixed Sale, which is to be held Monday in Little Rock. Among the offerings are a 2-year-old half-sister to Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap winner Flying Julia, who is consigned by Millennium Bloodstock.

Other consignors represented at the sale are Buck Pond; Carousel Bloodstock, agent for Franks Farms; and McDowell Farm.

* Jockey Anthony Lovato, who missed six days of racing last week with a bruised kidney, won with his first mount back Thursday, guiding Summer Mystery ($3.60) to a 2 1/4-length win in the first race for trainer Cole Norman.