01/27/2011 3:58PM

Ready or not, it's King Cotton time at Oaklawn

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Native Ruler is the class of the $50,000 King Cotton at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, but he still has a significant question to answer in the six-furlong stakes for older horses. The race will be his first since September, so he will be giving up recency to all seven of his rivals.

“In a perfect world, I would have loved to have another two or three weeks,” said Chris Richard, who trains 7-year-old Native Ruler for Maggi Moss. “I lost some time with weather in Kentucky when we first started back, and obviously, we lost some time here at Oaklawn Park with the inclement weather in January.

“I’d love to have one more work in him, but he worked tremendously last time and he galloped out really strong. Is he 100 percent fit? No. But he’s very close. We felt like he was close enough to run in the race.”

Native Ruler, a multiple stakes winner of 14 races and $534,196, won the King Cotton in 2009. This past year he won stakes at Ellis Park and Mountaineer. He comes into Saturday’s race off a third-place finish as the favorite in a no-conditions allowance at Hoosier Park on Sept. 9.

“He hopped at the start, threw his head and he spotted the field two lengths,” said Richard. “Instead of being very close to the pace, he ended up five lengths farther back than usual. He made a really good run.”

Native Ruler worked a bullet five-eighths in 1:01.20 on Jan. 22 in his final prep for the King Cotton, and might get a stalking trip behind the rail-drawn Agastache and the quick Mighty Rule. Terry Thompson will be aboard Native Ruler from post 7.

Silver Edition was fifth last out in a $80,000 optional claiming allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28. The third-place finisher, Western Prospector, came back to win the $50,000 Holiday Cheer at Turfway. Silver Edition drew post 5.

“He likes this track,” said D. Wayne Lukas, who trains the horse. “He’ll do well. He’s training very well.”

Mesa Sunrise was fourth last out in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct on Nov. 25. Jeremy Rose has the mount for trainer Tony Dutrow, who is 2 for 3 this meet at Oaklawn.