03/12/2004 1:00AM

Pie N Burger set for big try


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Pie N Burger signaled his intent to run a big race in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Razorback Handicap a week ago, when he turned in a powerful five-furlong work at Oaklawn Park.

He went the distance in 1:00.20 last Sunday, covering his final three furlongs in a little more than 34 seconds. Pie N Burger galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.60.

"It was probably one of the better works I've seen this meet, if not the best," said Jim Hamilton, an Oaklawn clocker for close to 15 years. "I liked how well he finished and how he galloped out. It looked like he still had something left in the tank."

Pie N Burger is the 119-pound highweight in the Razorback, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as a prep for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 3. He takes on eight others, with his chief rivals being graded stakes winners Crafty Shaw, Docent, No Comprende, and Cowboy Stuff.

Pie N Burger is the horse to beat on several fronts. He has excellent speed, the benefit of a race under his belt after a near four-month layoff, a record of five wins from seven starts last year, and that work, that beautiful work.

"He just did it on his own," said Cole Norman, who trains Pie N Burger for Kagele Brothers, Inc.. "I don't normally like going that fast, but he was doing it within himself. He did it pretty easy."

Jamie Theriot was aboard for the work and has the mount Sunday. The drill sets Pie N Burger up well for the Razorback, which will be his second start since October, when he won the $150,000 Seabiscuit on the Breeders' Cup undercard at Santa Anita.

In his most recent start, Pie N Burger finished second in the Grade 3 Essex Handicap on Feb. 21.

"After a layoff, I thought it was a good effort," Norman said.

Pie N Burger should be involved in the Razorback from the start, a strategy he has used to win such races as the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap.

"With him, his style is he'll be on the lead, or if somebody's getting out of hand, he'll be running right off of them," Norman said. "What we've done every time with him is just break and let him run his race."

A late threat will be No Comprende, a winner of $580,667 who makes his first start since Nov. 8, when he won the Grade 3 Woodbine Slots Cup at Woodbine in Toronto.

"He really starts putting in his run around the three-eighths pole," said James Smith, who trains No Comprende.