03/27/2003 1:00AM

Private Emblem returns


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Private Emblem, whose biggest career win came last year in the Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, will make a comeback from a six-month layoff in the eighth race Saturday.

The one-mile optional claimer will be the colt's first start since he ran sixth in the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has said a major objective for Private Emblem is the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park on April 26. Tim Doocy has the mount Saturday for James Cassels and Bob Zollars.

Strodes Commander favored

Strodes Commander established himself as the horse to beat in the $50,000 Rainbow Stakes for statebreds when he won his maiden here Feb. 2. It was an authoritative wire-to-wire win, and he has done nothing since that race to change opinions about his chances in the Rainbow on Saturday, when he will meet seven other 3-year-olds.

Strodes Commander comes into the six-furlong race on the heels of a second-place finish to older statebreds in a tough allowance March 15. He dueled with winner Getaway Holme, a 5-year-old, from the eighth pole and was beaten a nose.

"I felt real good about the race," said Larry Jones, who trains Strodes Commander. "Anytime you take a 3-year-old that's only raced three or four times that will eyeball an [older] horse like that . . . I was real pleased my colt didn't get intimidated. He kept trying to go at him."

Jones said that with maturity Strodes Commander has become more push-button, and he was pleased that he showed a willingness to rate in his last start. "He'll be able to play however they want to play," said Jones.

Congaree 123, Medaglia d'Oro 122

Weights for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap were released Thursday, and Congaree was made the 123-pound highweight for the 1 1/8-mile race on April 5.

Medaglia d'Oro is next at 122. Earlier this year, his connections skipped the Santa Anita Handicap when he was weighted at 124.

Oaklawn officials said Medaglia d'Oro is scheduled to fly to Hot Springs on Tuesday aboard a plane carrying Azeri for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, also run April 5.

Hobby roots for Easyfromthegitgo

Trainer Steve Hobby said he will be watching the Dubai World Cup card with great interest Saturday. He trains the undefeated Sue's Good News, who is a half-sister to Godolphin Mile starter Easyfromthegitgo.

Sue's Good News is 2 for 2 after winning a six-furlong allowance Sunday from off-the-pace for owner Cresran. Hobby said she would make her two-turn and stakes debut next in the $75,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn on April 12.

McDowell Farm to be honored

McDowell Farm, which led all breeders in earnings by registered Arkansas-breds for the second straight year in 2002, will be honored Saturday night during the Arkansas Thoroughbred Breeders' Horsemen's Association's annual banquet. This year, the event will be held at the Austin Hotel and Convention Center in Hot Springs.

Every year, it is held in conjunction with the Rainbow.

McDowell Farm is owned by Don McDowell and his son, Bill. Last year, horses they bred and registered in the Arkansas program won 56 races and earned $883,325.