04/06/2006 11:00PM

Quinonez is going places

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Local leading rider Luis Quinonez could spend a few weeks riding in Kentucky for the first time following the conclusion of the Oaklawn meet next Saturday. Quinonez is the regular rider on Kentucky Derby prospect Red Raymond, who runs Saturday in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

A 1 1/8-mile race, the Arkansas Derby closes out the meet at Oaklawn. It has been a good one for Quinonez, as well as for Red Raymond, who has finished third in the $250,000 Southwest and second in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel in his two starts at the meet. Quinonez was aboard for both races and said he is excited about Red Raymond.

"He's a horse that lays back and relaxes, so for those kind of races, long races like a mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter, he's the right horse to ride," said Quinonez.

Plans are for Quinonez to ride in Kentucky for the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

"I've never been there, so I'm excited about it," he said.

Quinonez is bidding for his first Oaklawn title, and heading into the races Friday, he led the standings by three wins over Terry Thompson and John Jacinto.

"I'm happy to be in front and enjoying every bit of it," said Quinonez.

Red Raymond is one of two starters trainer Bob Holthus will have in the Arkansas Derby. He will also start favorite Lawyer Ron. Others considered probable for the Arkansas Derby are Private Vow, Steppenwolfer, High Cotton, Sayhellotolarry, Sinister Minister, Nob Hill Deelite, and Well Said. Among the possibles are Film Fortune.

Whimsy nears return for Stidham

Whimsy, a winner of 5 of 8 starts, including last year's Grade 3 Iowa Oaks, shows a strong series of works at Oaklawn in preparation for her season debut. She last raced in September, finishing third in the Prairie Meadows Oaks.

"She's getting real close," said Michael Stidham, who trains Whimsy. "She's doing good. We haven't really picked a spot for her. We are anxious to get her back."

Stidham said Whimsy could make her comeback at Hawthorne, Arlington, or possibly Keeneland. She also will be considered for stakes later this year at Prairie Meadows, where she won the Oaks.

Whimsy is a versatile filly, Stidham said.

"Probably anywhere from seven- eighths of a mile to a mile and a sixteenth is her absolute best," said Stidham.

Whimsy is one of several stakes performers Stidham has gearing up for a return. Devilment, winner of last year's Round Table Stakes at Arlington, is scheduled to rejoin the stable later this month. A 4-year-old, Devilment has not started since finishing fourth in the Ontario Derby in October.

Charley Tango, unraced since November, is back in the Stidham barn after a winter break and is now working at Oaklawn. Last year, he was second in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity.

Culinary, who in her last start rallied for second in the $75,000 Goddess at Evangeline Downs on March 24, has been nominated to the Grade 3, $250,000 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne on April 22, said Stidham.

Stidham is usually based at Fair Grounds in the winter, but is at Oaklawn because the Fair Grounds meet was shortened and run at Louisiana Downs because of damage from Hurricane Katrina. Following the meet here, he will have divisions at Arlington, Lone Star Park, and Canterbury.

Breather for Baghdaria

Baghdaria, the winner of the Grade 3, $250,000 Silverbulletday at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs in January, is being freshened and will be pointed for two summer stakes at Lone Star Park, said her trainer, Bret Calhoun.

Baghdaria's first objective is the $100,000 Stonerside Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on May 29. The race is part of the annual Lone Star Million Day card. Another goal for her is the $75,000 Lone Star Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on turf July 1.

Baghdaria is a winner around one turn and two turns, and on dirt and turf. In her last start, she was fourth in the $75,000 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn.

"It's a good time to freshen her up," said Calhoun.