03/02/2010 12:00AM

Pace may benefit Four Gifts


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Four Gifts could get a beautiful pace setup Thursday when she makes her first start in more than six months in the ninth race at Oaklawn Park.

The field of six fillies and mares in the 1 1/16-mile allowance also includes Be Fair, who wired the field last summer in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga, and Martin's Bay, who was a front-running winner of an optional claimer earlier this meet.

Those two horses could make for an honest pace for Four Gifts, who was a stalking winner of the $250,000 Charles Town Oaks in her last start Aug. 15.

"It looks like there's two or three speed horses in the field," said Michael Stidham, who trains Four Gifts for Peter Redekop. "We could kind of sit off of it and be stalking and see how it sets up from there."

Four Gifts is making her first start for Redekop and Stidham - who last weekend won the $50,000 Mountain Valley at Oaklawn with Comedero - after being purchased at a Keeneland auction in January. The winner of the Grade 3 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs last May, Four Gifts was originally owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and trained by Steve Asmussen. Four Gifts has trained forwardly at Fair Grounds, and Stidham likes what he's seen from the daughter of Even the Score.

"She's obviously very professional," he said. "She's earned $600,000 already on the racetrack with Steve. She's a really nice filly and has trained really well coming up to her first race back. We're looking forward to getting her started up.

"I would have preferred to have found a one-turn race for her first start back. It just didn't work out."

Cliff Berry, who was aboard Comedero in the Mountain Valley, will ride Four Gifts.

Stidham said there is a chance Four Gifts could run instead in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri at Oaklawn on Saturday. He said she may be cross-entered in the race when it is drawn Thursday.

A solid pace Thursday also would benefit Always in My Heart. She made her first start on dirt last time, rallying for third to stakes winner Taptam in a money allowance Feb. 12. Quincy Hamilton has the mount for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

* There is a $10,098 pick-six carryover heading into the card Thursday.