02/11/2010 12:00AM

Payton d'Oro a standout locally

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Barbara D. Livingston
Payton d'Oro will make her first start of the year Friday at Oaklawn and could go on to the Azeri on March 6.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Payton d'Oro, who has never been beaten in a two-turn race at Oaklawn Park, will make her first start of the year Friday in a money allowance for fillies and mares expected to produce starters for the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri here March 6.

The allowance, to be run at 1 1/16 miles, has drawn six fillies and mares, including stakes winners Taptam, French Kiss, and Pleasantly Blessed.

Payton d'Oro could develop into a candidate for the Azeri, said her trainer, Cindy Jones. The filly, who won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan last May at Pimlico, has run some of the best races of her career at Oaklawn. Payton d'Oro has compiled a 3 for 4 record at the track, with her lone local loss coming in a maiden special weight sprint last January.

Following that race, she reeled off three straight route wins at Oaklawn, taking a maiden special weight, a first-level allowance, and the $75,000 Instant Racing. Friday's race will be her first since Nov. 7, when she finished fifth in the Grade 2 Chilukki at a mile at Churchill Downs.

Jones said Payton d'Oro was freshened following the Chilukki. The filly has since worked strongly at Oaklawn. Terry Thompson has the mount.

Always in My Heart is making her Oaklawn debut. She has a little bit of recency on Payton d'Oro, having last run Dec. 14. Always in My Heart finished a troubled fourth as the favorite in a Remington Park allowance won by Pleasantly Blessed.

"We kind of got stuck in some traffic and didn't really get a chance to run until late in the race," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Always in My Heart.

"This will be her first attempt on conventional dirt. She's only run on turf and synthetic tracks, but she's trained well on the dirt all along at Remington and Oaklawn."

Quincy Hamilton has the mount on Always in My Heart, who in October was third in the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland.

Taptam won the $73,000 Pippin from the rail in her last start Jan. 23, and will again break from the fence. Corey Nakatani, who was aboard for the Pippin, has a return call for trainer Bret Calhoun.

Taptam and Payton d'Oro appear to have more natural speed than their rivals, making either seem capable of a front-running win Friday.