10/24/2002 11:00PM

With mate on bench, 'Luz' set to shine


It will take a little bit of work to handicap the $75,000 Magna Entertainment Classic at Remington Park in Oklahoma City on Sunday.

For the past three years, a win by Mr Ross has been a foregone conclusion in the 1 1/16-mile race that highlights the Oklahoma Classics Day program. But this year he's absent, and that makes the Classic more playable from a wagering standpoint than it has been since he started running roughshod over the division in 1999.

Luz de Esperanza, a stablemate of Mr Ross, could be favored in the field of seven. But there are some promising 3-year-olds who merit consideration also, including Zee Oh Six, a 10-length maiden winner in his last start and a half-brother to past Classic winner Belle of Cozzene.

Luz de Esperanza has handled just about every assignment trainer Donnie Von Hemel has given him. A winner of six races in 10 starts this year, he is out for his first stakes win in the Classic. The conditions seem ideal. He's not only back with statebreds for the first time this year, but he also returns to the main track.

"I think he's probably better on the dirt," Von Hemel said.

Luz de Esperanza is one of several choice mounts on the card for leading jockey Cliff Berry.

The Classic is the richest of seven stakes on the card restricted to eligible Oklahoma-breds. Together the races are worth $375,000.

Sinner goes for Distaff repeat

Devout Sinner, who won the $50,000 Young Stables Distaff last year over top Oklahoma-bred mare Voladora, returns to the main track for the first time since July for this year's running at a mile and 70 yards. In her last start, Devout Sinner finished second on turf in the $30,000 Ricks Memorial.

"She's got more kick on the dirt," said owner-trainer Joan Charlton, who has given the mount to Berry.

Medium Rare sizzles at six furlongs

Medium Rare, out to defend his title in the $50,000 Sprint, should benefit from the cutback to six furlongs after he finished third to Mr Ross in his last start - the $30,000 Silver Bullet on Sept. 2.

"The Silver Bullet was at seven furlongs, and that's not really his game," said Roger Engel, who trains Medium Rare for J D R Stables. "I think he'll run better going three-quarters."

Medium Rare, who has won 9 of 17 starts at Remington, will be ridden by Berry.

Red Hawkeye seeks fifth straight

Red Hawkeye will have to overcome older vials Mahal and Halo Enclosed to win his fifth straight race in the $50,000 Diamond G Turf. The one-mile race also drew defending champ Baja Harri. Joe Lucas, who trains Red Hawkeye, has given the mount to Curtis Kimes.

In the $50,000 Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Filly and Mare Turf, which is new to the Classics program, Slew Ann appears to be in a good position to make it three in a row. She has defeated open company in her last two starts for trainer Joe Offolter. Her most recent win came at the 7 1/2-furlong distance of the Filly and Mare Turf.

Juvenile sprints bookend Classics Day

The two stakes on the card for 2-year-olds start and end the Classics Day program. First up is the $50,000 Juvenile, which drew three capable colts from the Von Hemel barn. Notable Okie, who dominated statebred maidens by six lengths last time out and has worked sharp since, appears the one to beat.

In the final race of the program, the $50,000 NTRA Lassie for fillies, Tulupai is a standout. In her last start, she romped by more than six lengths in the $52,000 Debutante at Prairie Meadows. Trainer Wilson Brown, who co-owns the filly with Darwin Olson, has given the mount to Berry.