05/30/2003 12:00AM

Mr Ross debuts as 8-year-old in sprint

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Mr Ross, who for years has been one of the top handicap horses in the region, will make a rare start around one turn Sunday, when he makes his 8-year-old debut in an allowance at Lone Star Park.

The six-furlong race, the fifth on a nine-race program, will be Mr Ross's first start since Sept. 2, when he won his second $30,000 Silver Bullet Centennial at Remington Park.

The Silver Bullet, at seven furlongs, is one of four one-turn starts Mr Ross has made during his 42-race career. Of those four races, he has won three and finished second in one. Overall, Mr Ross has won 18 races and $1 million.

The decision to bring Mr Ross back in a sprint made sense for several reasons, according to Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Mr Ross.

"Part of it is he's not been off this long before, and timing-wise it was a good spot to start out in," said Von Hemel. "He has been successful in seven-furlong races, so we do know he can run a one-turn race."

Mr Ross, who was given time off to recover from a strained suspensory ligament, returned to training the first week in February, and has been working sharply for his comeback.

In his final major drill, he worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.20 seconds May 23.

"I feel good about our fitness," said Von Hemel. "He's got plenty of miles in him and plenty of works.

"He's probably 40 pounds heavier than he's going to be after a couple of races, but I think part of that comes with age. Some of those old geldings start carrying a little more weight, some of them carry less. He's one of those that is kind of rounded out a little bit, which I think is good."

Von Hemel plans to stretch Mr Ross out around two turns later in the year, and said a long-term goal for the horse is the Classics Day Classic for Oklahoma-breds at Remington on Sept. 27. Mr Ross has won three runnings of the 1 1/16-mile Classic, from 1999 to 2001. Some of his other stakes wins include the Fifth Season Breeders' Cup, Essex, and Razorback, all Grade 3 races at Oaklawn. He also finished second in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap.

Mr Ross figures to be making a late bid Sunday.

"In a sprint, he's going to come from out of it," said Von Hemel, who has given the mount to Don Pettinger.

The chief threat to Mr Ross could be Doctor Mike, who was a close second last out to That Tat in the $75,000 Ford Express on May 3. That six-furlong sprint has become a key race, with That Tat returning to win the $100,000 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint, and third-place finisher Front Nine the $50,000 Carter McGregor.

Trainer Troy Young has given the mount on That Tat to Gerard Melancon.

Options for See How She Runs

Von Hemel is considering all of his options for See How She Runs, a Grade 1 winner around two turns who won the $100,000 Valid Expectations at six furlongs here last Monday. She covered six furlongs over a track rated good in 1:08.93.

"That just shows what a talented filly she is, that she can do either," said Von Hemel, referring to sprinting and routing.

Options for See How She Runs include the Grade 3, $200,000 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap at seven furlongs at Arlington June 14. Others are the $100,000 Saylorville at six furlongs June 28, or the $125,000 Iowa Distaff Breeders' Cup at a 1 1/16 miles July 11. Both races are at Prairie Meadows.

See How She Runs races for her breeder, Pin Oak Stable.

All-Star jockey berth on the line

The leading rider at Lone Star after the close of racing Sunday will get a berth into the National Thoroughbred Racing Association All-Star Jockey Championship here June 20.

Eddie Martin Jr. had a one-win lead in the standings over Corey Lanerie heading into the races Friday. Martin rode the Jockey Championship in 1999, while Lanerie has represented Lone Star in three years: 1999, 2001, and 2002.

Other riders invited to compete in the four-race competition are expected to be announced shortly.