03/26/2002 1:00AM

This pair prefers sprints


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - At a time of year when many good 3-year-olds are being stretched out in distance in the hope they develop into Derby prospects, a pair of talented Oaklawn Park-based colts will be cutting back to six furlongs Thursday in a wide open allowance for 3-year-olds worth $41,000.

Cojet and Richest Half have both done the two-turn thing, finishing seventh and fifth in separate divisions of the $75,000 Southwest Stakes over a mile here March 2. Both won the last time they sprinted.

Cojet won a six-furlong allowance by 8 1/2 lengths one start before to the Southwest, earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. Richest Half, who is undefeated in four starts around one turn, captured the $50,000 Mountain Valley over six furlongs two starts back.

Cojet finished second as the favorite in the Mountain Valley, beaten three-quarters of a length. He and Richest Half will face three others Thursday: Bringem Jung, a Southern California import who won an entry-level allowance race last out in his first start for trainer Lynn Whiting; War General, a two-time stakes winner at six furlongs who removes blinkers for his first start since October; and Canyon De Oro, who has not started since winning a one-mile allowance at Fairmount Park last November.

Cojet, a winner of 3 of 9 starts, established himself as one of the best 3-year-old sprinters on the grounds with his wire-to-wire allowance romp Feb. 10. He won his maiden last October at Keeneland, and a month later he won an entry-level allowance over Speed Hunter at Churchill Downs. Trainer Bob Holthus has given the mount to leading rider James Lopez, replacing Terry Thompson who is sidelined with an injury.

Marlon St. Julien will ride Richest Half for the first time Thursday. Trainer Steve Asmussen determined the colt was a "closing sprinter" after his fifth-place finish in the Southwest, and has since worked him a bullet four furlongs in 48.40 seconds to sharpen him up for this race. The last time Richest Half cut back from two turns to one, he won a seven-furlong allowance by 5 1/4 lengths at Sam Houston Race Park.

Richest Half will do his best running late, while Cojet figures to set or contest the pace from his rail post. Bringem Jung, who has worked sharply in recent weeks, will be close to the leaders, and is the chief threat to the top two under Calvin Borel.

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