03/22/2006 1:00AM

Random Gold at top of game

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Semaphore Man serves as something of a measuring stick for the three leading contenders in an optional claimer at six furlongs Friday at Oaklawn Park.

Random Gold, Wavering Banker, and Dr. Meatball all have turned in competitive efforts against Semaphore Man, who is one of the top sprinters on the grounds and could make his next start in the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap here.

was second to Semaphore Man two starts ago while making his first start in four months. He set the pace in the second-level allowance and was overtaken by Semaphore Man, who went on to win by five lengths and earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

Random Gold, trained by Cole Norman, earned a Beyer of 89, and one start later equaled the best number of his career when he was awarded a 93 for his second-place finish in an optional claimer here Feb. 25. The number is also the highest last-race Beyer in the field Friday.

Random Gold is versatile and has raced more recently than Wavering Banker and Dr. Meatball. He has speed, and from his outside post could sit just off the quick Unbridled America.

last raced in March 2005, winning a first-level allowance here that included Semaphore Man, who finished third. Wavering Banker, trained by Jerry Calvin, won by 4 1/4 lengths. Semaphore Man returned in his next start to win. For his comeback, Wavering Banker has turned in a series of powerful works at Oaklawn, his latest a six-furlong move in 1:12.

faced Semaphore Man in an optional claimer at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Dec. 9, with Dr. Meatball finishing second to return winner Venemous. Semaphore Man finished third in the race, a length behind Dr. Meatball.

One start later, Dr. Meatball finished second by a neck to stakes winner Jonesboro in another optional claimer at Louisiana Downs. He will be making his first start since then, and shows some nice works for trainer Cody Autrey, who has won with 40 percent of his starters this meet.