03/28/2008 12:00AM

McFadden's speed vs. Explosive Ghazi's late kick

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - McFadden, who showed excellent speed in winning his maiden in his most recent start, and Explosive Ghazi, who has a strong closing kick, appear to be the major players in the $50,000 Rainbow Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Sunday.

The six-furlong race is restricted to 3-year-olds bred in Arkansas. It drew a field of 14.

McFadden is popular in large part because he is named for Darren McFadden, a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up for the University of Arkansas who is expected to be among the top five players in the NFL draft in April.

McFadden showed the quickness of his running-back namesake in his last start March 2. He won a six-furlong maiden special weight for Arkansas-breds by 7 1/4 lengths, setting fractions of 21.80 seconds for the opening quarter and 45.40 for the half-mile. Earlier in his career, he closed from next-to-last to finish third in a $30,000 maiden claimer at Churchill Downs.

"He's got a real willing personality," said Ron Moquett, who co-owns and trains McFadden. "He'll do whatever you ask him to do. For a $4,000 investment, he's all anybody could ask."

Moquett purchased McFadden, a son of Cinammon Creek, at auction as a yearling. Since the horse's maiden win earlier this month, the trainer has sold a half-interest in him to TBS Farms.

The stretch threat is Explosive Ghazi, who was third against older rivals in a statebred allowance here March 7. Prior to that race, he was third in open company in a $62,500 optional claimer at Oaklawn. Dylan Williams has the mount for trainer Stanley Roberts.

Racing Festival begins this weekend

Oaklawn's annual Racing Festival of the South, offering at least one stakes a day, will be run over the final six days of the meet, beginning Saturday with the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

Ginger Punch, highweighted at 122 pounds, and Hystericalady, at 119, are expected to run in the Apple Blossom, while Heatseeker, Circular Quay, and Tiago are among runners considered probable for the Oaklawn. Heatseeker has been assigned high weight of 119. Circular Quay and Tiago will both carry 117.

The Festival concludes with the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 12. It is expected to draw 14 horses, among them Gayego, Blackberry Road, and Liberty Bull.

* Oaklawn was to increase all overnight purses approximately $500 a race beginning Saturday.