09/23/2004 12:00AM

Medium Rare seeks four-peat


Medium Rare can tie a record set by top Oklahoma-bred sprinter Highland Ice if he wins his fourth consecutive Oklahoma Classics Day Sprint at Remington Park on Saturday night. The six-furlong race is one of seven statebred stakes on a card worth $315,000, making for one of the richest nights of the meet.

Highland Ice won the Sprint from 1996 through 1999. A year later, Medium Rare made his first appearance in the race, running second to Findaway. He returned in 2001 and won the Sprint by 7 3/4 lengths as the favorite, and in 2002 he proved 4 1/2 lengths the best. Medium Rare won the race again last year, by 1 1/2 lengths at 2-5.

Medium Rare, who is now 8, seems poised to make things happen again this year. He comes into the $40,000 Sprint on the heels of his best race in three starts this year, a second-place finish to past Breeders' Cup Sprint starter Day Trader in an open-company allowance. The six-furlong race went in a blazing 1:08.40, and it was Medium Rare's first start of the season at Remington.

"He ran a good race," said Roger Engel, who trains Medium Rare for JDR Stable. "He loves this racetrack. He always has. For some reason he just takes to it. This is his home turf."

Medium Rare has been a special horse for Engel. Claimed for $5,000 out of his fifth career start, he came to the trainer two starts later. All but one of the horse's 16 career wins have come for Engel. In all, Medium Rare has started 39 times and earned $312,563.

Engel has led the trainer standings from the start of the meet, and through Wednesday had won an outstanding 17 of 37 starts at Remington.

Cliff Berry, the meet's leading rider, was aboard Medium Rare for his debut back in 1998 and has the mount Saturday.

Medium Rare is not the lone horse going for a fourth Classics Day win. Bayakoa's Image has won the Distaff twice and the Lassie at 2, and goes in this year's $40,000 Distaff for owner-trainer O.J. Osborn.

Highland Ice is the winningest horse in the 12-year-history of Classics Day. He won the Juvenile at 2, then the four straight runnings of the Sprint.

Von Hemel pair vs. Zee Oh Six

Trainer Donnie Von Hemel will send out Notable Okie and Expensive Risk against 2002 winner Zee Oh Six in the $75,000 Classic. The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward also drew defending champ George Taylor.

Notable Okie put together two strong races on turf in August before returning to dirt last out and running second in an optional claimer at Louisiana Downs. Since that race, he has worked a bullet five furlongs at Remington in 1:00.60.

"He's a nice little horse that can go either way," said Von Hemel, who trains Notable Okie for John and Kristine Richter.

Expensive Risk will be making his third start back from a layoff in the Classic, a race in which he finished second in both 2002 and 2003. In his last start, he stretched out around two turns for the first time since November 2003 and ran fourth after pushing the early pace in an an open-company optional claimer at Remington.

"He was a little too aggressive last time, which was his first time going a route of ground in a while," said Von Hemel. "Hopefully, it helps him settle down this time."

Kevin Cogburn will ride Expensive Risk, while Greg Schaefer has the mount on Notable Okie.

Zee Oh Six exits the same race as Expensive Risk. He ran second, and will be a major factor for trainer Joe Lucas.

April's Lucky Boy tough in Turf

April's Lucky Boy looks difficult to beat in the $40,000 Turf following a second-place finish to millionaire Maysville Slew in an open-company allowance Aug. 14.

Following that race, Maysville Slew finished second in the $125,000 DeBartolo Memorial Breeders' Cup.

April's Lucky Boy won the Turf by 2 1/4 lengths last year, and has never been beaten on Oklahoma Classics Day. In his other appearance in the series, he won the Juvenile in 2001. Cogburn has the mount for Kelly Thiesing and trainer Von Hemel.

* In other races, trainer Joe Petalino will send out the entry of Popaluna and Shiloah in the $40,000 Lassie; Another Diamond ships in for the Juvenile for trainer Kelly Von Hemel; and Tamara's Babe will start for Joe Offolter in the Filly and Mare Turf.

* All of the races will be televised statewide on Cox cable. Of the seven stakes, four will be shown live during a broadcast that runs from 8-10 p.m. Central. The others will be shown by tape delay. First post Saturday is 6:15 p.m.