05/03/2004 11:00PM

Kuhl 'n' Clever has work to do

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Among the five 3-year-old colts who will compete in Thursday's Bay Meadows feature, a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs, two have competed in stakes. Comebacking Razen Hazen won the Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes at Santa Rosa in his second start. Dixieland Heater set the pace in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby before finishing fifth.

The one to beat, though, is Kuhl 'n' Clever, who has won three straight since running second in his debut. He has the perfect combination of early speed and the ability to sustain a late kick, and may find himself on the lead as he continues to work his way up through his conditions.

After running second in a $32,000 maiden race in his debut, Kuhl 'n' Clever moved up to the $50,000 level and won. He also triumphed in a starter allowance race, then captured a first-condition allowance race.

But he'll have to work on Thursday.

Kool Suggestion just ran third against older opponents, losing to stakes winner Con Quixote, and he was also third in a strong field of 3-year-olds in his previous start.

Jet West, a stablemate of Kuhl 'n' Clever, makes his first start since winning his maiden on Oct. 18. He has the best last-race Beyer in the field, and three of the horses he beat that day, including El Camino Real Derby winner Kilgowan, won their next start.

Razen Hazen, the only stakes winner in the field, hasn't raced since a sixth-place finish to The Herc in the Golden Bear Stakes on Nov. 23. He is the only runner who is entered for the $50,000 claiming price, even though he is eligible to run under the allowance conditions.

"He's worth $50,000," trainer Dennis Ward said. "If he wins, he could come back again at this condition in the allowance part. If I lost him for $50,000, it would be good value."

Razen Hazen has run only once for a tag, winning his debut in a $32,000 maiden race at Santa Rosa. He came back a week later to win the Cavonnier.

"When he broke his maiden, he didn't win against much," Ward said, "and you're never sure about 2-year-old stakes."

Given his victory in his debut and a solid series of works for his comeback, including three straight bullet drills over the track, Razen Hazen can't be overlooked.

"Training-wise, you want to have him as fit as you can get him," Ward said. "He's as ready as he can be."