03/05/2003 12:00AM

Last start was in Breeders' Cup

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Early in the Oaklawn Park meet trainer Larry Jones was concerned whether Ruby's Reception would make the $75,000 Honeybee for 3-year-old fillies because weather had forced the cancellation of training on a handful of mornings. But the bullet 1:14.60 six furlongs she worked on Sunday has put her in the starting gate for Saturday's Honeybee.

"She did it very easily. She was well within herself," said Jones. "She has overcome pretty much everything that Mother Nature had gotten me behind on, but anytime you're going a mile and a sixteenth off that long a layoff, you always wonder."

The Honeybee, which serves as a prep for the Grade 2, $200,000 Fantasy here April 11, will be Ruby's Reception's first start since Oct. 26 when she finished 10th to champion Storm Flag Flying in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

In the race, she wrenched an ankle, but she has recovered well and the down time seems to have been an asset.

"I know she's a different horse than she was last year, so that's one thing that's got us excited," said Jones. "She's just stronger, and can just do things a lot easier than she did before. Things just come so easy for her now."

Ruby's Reception, a small gray, was a $12,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland September. She is by Rubiano and is out of an unraced A.P. Indy mare whose dam, Court Hostess, was a Grade 3 winner of 12 races and $464,894.

It appears Ruby's Reception has inherited her granddam's talent. She won 3 of 7 races and $209,230 last year for Oasis Racing, with her biggest score coming by 7 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 Debutante at Ellis Park.

Ruby's Reception also finished second to Atlantic Ocean in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, and second to Westerly Breeze in the Grade 2 Alcibiades at Keeneland, an effort that sent her to the Breeders' Cup.

She has trained well for her return, and the bullet she worked Sunday was her third straight at Oaklawn.

"[Her works] have been as good here or better than anywhere we've worked her," said Jones. "It looks like this track's agreeing with her, so we're cautiously optimistic."

Other locals considered probable for the race include Explosive Beauty, a two-time stakes winner at the meet for leading trainer Cole Norman; My Trusty Cat, the $250,000 Delta Princess winner who ran third to Lady Tak last out in the $100,000 Tiffany Lass for trainer David Vance; and Golden Reputashn.

Golden Reputashn, who has finished second in two entry-level allowance races this meet, would benefit if there is more pace in the Honeybee than her in last two races, when she closed strongly on wire-to-wire winners. Trainer Don Von Hemel has given the mount to Abel Castellano.

Don Pettinger has the mount on My Trusty Cat. Jamie Theriot is the regular rider on Explosive Beauty.

Runner-up to Slider goes in feature

McMahon, who was runner-up to Slider last out in his first race following a seven-month layoff, returns Friday in the $32,000 ninth race, a one-mile allowance for 4-year-olds and upward.

Slider was a six-length winner over McMahon last time, earning a 108 Beyer Speed Figure.

McMahon, who earned a 97 Beyer Figure last out, won the $100,000 Precisionist Handicap at Prairie Meadows and the $100,000 Sportsman's Breeders' Cup in Chicago last year. Ken Shino rides for Von Hemel.

- H.W. "Hoot" Herndon, a longtime trainer, and John Kosin, an owner, both died Monday. Herndon was 72, and Kosin 67.