01/31/2002 1:00AM

Rested Robin De Nest returns

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A refreshed Robin De Nest, who upset top regional sprinter Bonapaw in December, makes his first start since then Saturday in the $50,000 King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The six-furlong King Cotton has drawn a fast cast of 10, including defending champ Bidis, the fast Kettle Man, the honest Sand Ridge, and the Texas shipper Boots on Sunday.

Robin De Nest has not raced since he won the $75,000 F. W. Gaudin at Fair Grounds on Dec. 16. He used his stalking style that day in a nose win over Crucible, who was a length clear of Bonapaw. Bonapaw returned to win the $75,000 Colonel Power Handicap at Fair Grounds on Jan. 12.

Robin De Nest skipped the Colonel Power and was given six weeks to regroup from the Gaudin. "This is a guy who had been running hard all year against the likes of Bonapaw and those kinds of horses, and it took its toll on him," said trainer Tom Amoss.

"He was exhausted after the race. He's the kind of horse who gives all he has every time he runs. He's my favorite off of the effort he gives. He gives 110 percent every time he goes out there."

Robin De Nest had a big season last year, winning 7 of 13 starts and $300,027. And even in defeat, he ran big races, among them a second-place finish to Bet on Sunshine in the Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup at Keeneland and a second-place finish to Bonapaw in the $75,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, a six-furlong race that was timed in a blazing 1:08.60.

Robin De Nest has responded to the rest and has fired two bullet works in preparation for his comeback. His stalk-and-pounce style should serve him well in the King Cotton, which has drawn two speed demons in Kettle Man, who earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his front-running win in the $25,000 Island Whirl Handicap on Oct. 27, and Abbi's Choice, who earned a 108 Beyer for his gate-to-wire win in the $27,000 Autumn Classic on Nov. 23.

Bidis is also fast but can be rated, said trainer Sonny Wigginton. "That's the best thing about him, that he's not going to get involved in a speed duel," Wigginton said.

In his last start, Bidis won the $57,000 Waterford Park Handicap at Mountaineer on May 19 from just off the pace in a swift 1:08.80.

An outside threat to the top two is Sand Ridge, a stalker who has not raced since he finished second to Bonapaw in the $150,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap in July.

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