03/03/2009 12:00AM

Ritchey targets Rebel for Wise Kid

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - With two wins at 1 1/16 miles this meet at Oaklawn Park, the Tim Ritchey-trained Wise Kid has emerged as a 3-year-old to watch. He dominated a first-level allowance here last Friday, and is set to make his stakes debut on March 14 in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel at 1 1/16 miles.

"As of right now, it looks like we're headed to, hopefully, the Rebel," said Ritchey.

Wise Kid has made three starts, winning his maiden by a half-length in his second race Feb. 5, then taking the allowance by 4 1/4 lengths last Friday. Wise Kid earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 88.

"He ran a very mature race," Ritchey said. "He sat in on the rail behind horses, he rated, he ate the dirt, he kind of had to push his way out a little bit, which he did without any problem at all. And, when he was asked, he responded quite well and kind of drew away at the end. He was strong at the end.

"I think it was a race where he kind of turned the corner."

Wise Kid had drifted in his first two races, likely from looking at the grandstand and crowd, said Ritchey. The trainer added blinkers for the allowance, as well as a new bit to give Wise Kid's rider more leverage, and the colt ran straight and true on Friday.

"He's obviously focused more," Ritchey said. "The blinkers and the bit helped him quite a bit."

Wise Kid is a son of Lemon Drop Kid and races for his breeder, Robert S. Evans. This winter, Evans has added two quality mares to his broodmare band with the recent retirements of his multiple-stakes-winning homebreds Lemon Drop Mom and Akronism.

Ritchey trained both and said Lemon Drop Mom, who is 5, has been booked to Unbridled's Song. Akronism, who is also 5, has been booked to Indian Charlie. Both mares won at Oaklawn.

Lemon Drop Mom was fourth in last year's Grade 1 Apple Blossom and went on to finish second by a nose to champion Ginger Punch in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga in August. In all, she won 6 of 20 starts and $616,945.

Akronism, who won a pair of Grade 3 sprints last fall at Woodbine, retired with 9 wins from 22 starts for earnings of $516,519.

Acoma, Bear Now to Azeri

Acoma and Bear Now, a pair of Grade 2 winners based at Fair Grounds, are both on deck to run at Oaklawn in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri Breeders' Cup on Sunday. The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares is a prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom here April 4.

Acoma last raced in November, winning the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs. Trainer David Carroll said on Tuesday that Julien Leparoux has the mount for the Azeri.

Bear Now is scheduled to ship into Oaklawn on Saturday, said her trainer, Al Stall Jr. She was second in the $60,000 Truly Bound at Fair Grounds in her last start Jan. 17. A millionaire, Bear Now won three stakes last year, including the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Distaff at Turfway Park. Stall said Jamie Theriot has the mount for the Azeri.

Devil House arrived from Kentucky on Tuesday, and is "highly likely" for the Azeri, said her trainer, Lynn Whiting.

"We'll give her a day to collect herself off the trip," he said. "We should have her on the racetrack here Thursday. We'll see how she bounced out of her trip, and make some plans."

Others expected for the race include Smart Surprise, the winner of the $60,000 Chou Croute at Fair Grounds in her last start Feb. 14, with a career-best Beyer of 105. Among the locals pointing for the race are French Kiss, winner of the $50,000 Pippin here Feb. 14, and Initforthekandy, a sharp allowance winner here Jan. 30.

The Azeri is one of two six-figure stakes this weekend. The Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback for 4-year-olds and up is on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile race is a prep for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 4. Among the early probables are Catmantoo, Jonesboro, Let It Rock, Prom Shoes, Que Paso, and Spotsgone.

Spotsgone breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 between races here Sunday. Catmantoo, who worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.80 last Saturday, is to be ridden by Cliff Berry, said his trainer, Tim Ice.