03/11/2004 1:00AM

'Mayo' holds slim class edge


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - It will take some hair-splitting to come up with the winner of the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup on Saturday. A well-matched field of 10 fillies and mares is entered in the 1 1/16-mile race, which serves as a prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap.

Top contenders on Saturday include Mayo on the Side, who invades from Gulfstream Park; Keys to the Heart, who ships in from Southern California; Spectacular Lisa, who has won her last three starts, including the $100,000 Chou Croute at Fair Grounds; and local stakes winners My Trusty Cat and Drexel Monorail.

Mayo on the Side is appealing from a class standpoint. In her last three starts she has faced quality competition, finishing second to Lead Story in the Grade 2 Falls City in November, third to Harmony Lodge in the Grade 3 First Lady in January, and fourth to Randaroo in the Grade 3 Shirley Jones, which went in stakes-record time, in her last start on Feb. 8.

Carl Nafzger trains Mayo on the Side as well as Lead Story, a winner of more than $600,000, and that played a role in his decision to ship the former for the Oaklawn BC.

"We wanted to separate the two mares, Lead Story and her," he said.

Mayo on the Side, who races for Lothenbach Stables and has won five of 18 starts to earn $254,125, is looking for her first stakes win Saturday.

"What I like about her, she wants to be a racehorse," said Nafzger. "She does everything she's supposed to do in the race. She can relax and close. She's very versatile."

Nafzger said pace will dictate where Mayo on the Side races in the Oaklawn BC. She is stretching back out around two turns after racing with one last time, and the move should suit her.

"She goes either way," Nafzger said. He has given the mount to Tim Doocy.

Terry Thompson will ride Keys to the Heart, who moves back to dirt after winning a turf optional claimer last out at Santa Anita. The last time she went from turf to dirt, she won the Grade 3 Hawthorne at Hollywood Park.

In her final major prep for the Oaklawn BC, Keys to the Heart worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 on March 5.

"She's doing as well as ever," said Beau Greely, who trains Keys to the Heart for Thomas Nichols.

Greely said Keys to the Heart is a versatile, athletic mare, and he looks for her to be stalking the pace Saturday.

My Trusty Cat moves back to two turns after winning a six-furlong allowance race last out in 1:10. Last season at Oaklawn, she was a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles in the $75,000 Honeybee.

"She's a little stronger than she was last year," said David Vance, who trains My Trusty Cat.

Apprentice Justin Shepherd has the mount for Carl Pollard.

* Tiger Hunt, a top 3-year-old, had his first work since spiking a temperature last week, going five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Thursday. Tiger Hunt, who won the $200,000 Cradle Stakes last year, could make his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby. Ralph Nicks trains the colt for Team Valor.