03/21/2005 1:00AM

Overqualified trio square off


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Mountain General, Rodeo's Castle, and I'm Majestic were all nominated to Saturday's $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn, but instead have been entered in the ninth race Wednesday, and their presence makes for a strong six-furlong allowance feature with an optional claiming price of $80,000.

is a Grade 3 stakes winner of $660,015 who exits a key race. Rodeo's Castle has won his last two starts impressively, and I'm Majestic has a strong local record. Completing the six-horse field is Unbridled America, a full brother to stakes winner Cojet; Vazandar, a multiple stakes winner; and Grin and Frown, from the red-hot barn of trainer Jinks Fires.

Rodeo's Castle and Grin and Frown could be the two main pace players. Rodeo's Castle scored his last two wins in front-running fashion. He won an entry-level allowance by nine lengths Feb. 11, then returned to win an optional claiming allowance by a neck on Feb. 26 in his next start.

Although Rodeo's Castle could end up controlling the pace again as he seeks his third straight win, he does not necessarily have to have the lead on Wednesday.

"If it's a stalking trip, that's okay," said Jeff Burningham, the regular rider on Rodeo's Castle for trainer Beverly Fowler.

has stepped up his game in recent months and has been flattered by horses he has defeated, such as Grand Bank and Shrewd Deputy, who returned in their next starts to win allowances at Oaklawn.

"I think he's a horse with lots of heart," Burningham said of Rodeo's Castle. "He's very courageous."

Mountain General exits the $50,000 King Cotton, in which he finished a close seventh to winner Deputy Storm, one of the favorites for the Hot Springs. Level Playingfield, the third-place finisher in the King Cotton, returned in his next start to win an optional claiming allowance, while Wildcat Shoes, sixth in the King Cotton, came back to win an allowance and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105. Both horses are also pointing for the Hot Springs.

Mountain General, 7, shows some strong works at Fair Grounds since the King Cotton, and can be closer to the pace than he was last time. Trainer Steve Asmussen has Roman Chapa riding Mountain General.

I'm Majestic has a 6-5-4 record from 20 starts at Oaklawn Park. Tim Doocy has the mount for trainer Dewaine Loy.