02/21/2003 1:00AM

Mid-South notes


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Cindy Noll, the all-time winningest female rider at Oaklawn Park who missed the first three weeks of the meet to spend more time with her children, returned to riding here Friday.

She finished eighth in the sixth race with 10-1 shot Upsy Daisy for trainer Jack Waldie. The mount was Noll's first since the Hoosier Park meet ended in November.

"I thought the kids were doing very, very well, and I was getting itchy to get back to work," said Noll. "I do need to get ready for Iowa."

Noll, who will ride at Prairie Meadows after Oaklawn, is in her sixth season in Hot Springs. She has won close to 150 races at the track since 1997, with her best local finish in the standings coming in 1999 when she won 47 races to rank third behind champ Tim Doocy and runner-up Calvin Borel.

Noll also cracked the top 10 at Oaklawn in 1998 and 1999 and was the nation's leading female in 1994 with 189 wins. She has been named to ride four horses at Oaklawn on Sunday.

Sand Ridge returns in feature

There is no stakes Sunday at Oaklawn, but the featured ninth race has the feel of one with the venerable Sand Ridge, now 8, set to make his comeback from a four-month layoff. Also in the race is Honor Me, who was runner-up to Beau's Town last out in the $50,000 King Cotton Stakes on Feb. 1.

The $60,000 optional claimer, to be run over six furlongs, should produce starters for the $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes on March 23.

At least that's the plan for Honor Me, according to trainer Stanley Roberts. The King Cotton was a strong race for Honor Me, who was making his first start since Oct. 12. Rodney Trader has the return call Sunday.

Ken Shino will be aboard Sand Ridge, who has worked steadily for his return. Last year, Sand Ridge won his comeback from an extended layoff at Oaklawn. He races for Thunderhead Farms and is trained by Don Von Hemel.

Another of note in the race is U.S. Jets, who rallied from 12 lengths off the pace last out to win a money allowance at Churchill Downs.

Sellers to ride Forty Dolls at Delta

Forty Dolls, who is undefeated in two career starts, will attempt to master two turns Sunday night in the $100,000 Green Oaks for 3-year-old Louisiana-bred fillies at Delta Downs in Vinton, La. Shane Sellers will come in from Fair Grounds for the mount.

The seven-furlong race has drawn 10, including Scottish Heritage, Rubies N Roses, and Letithappencaptain, the one-two-three finishers in the $50,000 Creme de la Creme at Delta on Jan. 18.

But the one to beat is Forty Dolls, who won her maiden by four lengths at Churchill on Nov. 22, then returned a month later to capture the $88,000 Louisiana Futurity for statebred fillies by a length at Fair Grounds on Dec. 26.

In both of her races, Forty Dolls has come from off the pace. Morris Nicks trains the filly for James Spence.

Testify headed to Mardi Gras

Testify, explosive winner of the $50,000 Turf Sprint at Sam Houston Race Park on Feb. 15, will make his next start around two turns in the $75,000 Mardi Gras on turf at Fair Grounds on March 4, said trainer Randy Morse.

It will be a rare two-turn appearance by Testify, who last spring won the Grade 3 Aegon, a turf sprint, at Churchill Downs.

"The first time I ever ran him on the grass was in New Orleans going seven and a half, actually," said Morse. "He got beat a head." Morse noted that the rider dropped his whip in that race.

"The way he's been running, he acts like he can get the farther distance," Morse added.

Morse's other top turf horse, five-time stakes winner Morluc, returned to training last week. Both horses are based at Oaklawn.

"He'd been turned out all winter in Florida," said Morse. "We're going to race him this year and retire him. That's the plan. He'll go to stud."

Morluc, who twice has placed second in the Hong Kong Sprint, could make his comeback in either the Grade 3, $100,000 Shakertown at Keeneland on April 12, or the Aegon. He has won both races before.

Big handle for Sam Houston

The $3.53 million bet on the Connally Breeders' Cup Turf card at Sam Houston on Feb. 15 was the third-highest live handle at the track since it opened in 1994. The track's largest handle was in December, when a little more than $5 million was bet on the inaugural Great State Challenge.

That series of races helped boost business on the Connally card, according to Bob Bork, president of Sam Houston.

"It was part of the carryover from the Great State Challenge," said Bork. "With the exposure we received, people are very familiar with Sam Houston Race Park."

The Connally was held a week earlier this year to avoid a conflict with the opening of the popular Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and ontrack attendance was a strong 8,236. The plan for next year is to again run the race the second week in February.

* The free online handicapping contest put on by Sam Houston for the Connally drew 1,080 contestants. The first-place prize of $1,000 went to Dan Suty of Houston.

Lone Star to offer $245k

Lone Star Park plans to distribute about $240,000 to $245,000 a day in purses, with maiden special weight races worth $27,000.

Lone Star is constructing three new barns on the backstretch, which will open for both stabling and training on March 17.

Stall applications are due Wednesday.

* The Lone Star Park Charitable Foundation distributed $60,000 to 17 different charities in Grand Prairie last Thursday. This year, funds will be raised during three major events, including the NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship on June 20.