03/12/2008 12:00AM

Kodiak Kowboy gets his year going in a sprint


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rick Porter owns some 3-year-old horsepower, and much of it will be in action this weekend at Oaklawn Park. The entries from his Fox Hill Farm begin flowing on Friday, when Kodiak Kowboy, whom Porter races with Vinery Stables, makes his 3-year-old debut in the second race. Porter will then have Sacred Journey, whom he co-owns with Thomas Vanderhyde, in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel on Saturday, and Eight Belles, a top-ranked filly for Fox Hill, in the Grade 3, $100,000 Honeybee on Sunday.

"We've got a lot of opportunities," Porter said of the weekend. "I'm ready for it."

Kodiak Kowboy, trained by Steve Asmussen, is part of a five-horse field in a $75,000 optional claimer at six furlongs. He will be making his first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, when he finished third to War Pass and Pyro, the early favorites for the Kentucky Derby.

The path Kodiak Kowboy will go down this year figures to be a different one. He proved to be a top-class sprinter last season, when he won three stakes, including the Grade 2 Saratoga Special at 6 1/2 furlongs. It was shortly before that August race at Saratoga that Porter bought into Kodiak Kowboy.

"Long-range, I think we feel seven-eighths to a mile is going to be his best distance," said Porter. "So, I would guess our No. 1 goal this summer would be the King's Bishop."

Porter, who won the Grade 1 King's Bishop at seven furlongs at Saratoga last year with Hard Spun, said Kodiak Kowboy was freshened following the Breeders' Cup. For his return, he shows a strong series of works at Fair Grounds. Luis Quinonez has the mount on Kodiak Kowboy, who will break from post 3.

Sebastian County, who last year was third in the Grade 3 Arlington Washington Futurity, will make his second start of the year in the optional claimer Friday. He closed from last to finish third to the well-regarded Ferragamo in the $50,000 Mountain Valley at Oaklawn in his last out Feb. 23.

"He was a little ways back," said Don Von Hemel, who trains Sebastian County for Dream Walkin Farms, "but that was his first trip. Those other horses had been running. He'll be sharper."

Sebastian County worked a bullet three furlongs in 36.20 seconds in his final prep for Friday.