01/29/2008 12:00AM

Rockdundo's speed an edge

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Grant Forster hopes Rockdundo's speed will help him secure a clean trip Thursday when he takes on 11 others in the ninth race at Oaklawn Park. The $40,000 optional claimer will be run over 1 1/16 miles, and it is one of four high-level races on a card that also features a $51,783 pick-six carryover.

Rockdundo showed his turn of foot two starts ago, when he won a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 11. He covered the one-turn mile distance in 1:35.20, and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 91. A repeat of that performance Thursday could make him tough to handle against a competitive group of older horses that includes Grade 3 winner U D Ghetto, Kingsfield, Mr. Soul, and Air Lord, who is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Delaware Township.

"It's a good race," Forster said. "I think the race sets up. Anytime you get 12 horses going two turns, there's going to be traffic issues for some of them. But he's got the kind of style to put him in the race early.

"It looks like he should get a good trip, laying second or third, somewhere to the outside of maybe Holla Bend, who looks like the speed of the race."

Rockdundo will be moving back to conventional dirt Thursday after finishing fifth in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance on Polytrack at Turfway Park on Nov. 28. The race will be his first at Oaklawn.

"I think the horse seemed to love Churchill, and in my experience the horses that run well at Churchill tend to run well at Oaklawn," Forster said. "They seem to be fairly similar surfaces."

Eddie Razo has the mount on Rockdundo, who will break from post 9.

High-end claimer draws stakes performers

In the fifth, stakes-quality sprinters Marq French, Nuttyboom, Wheaton Home, and Rain on Monday will try to keep probable pacesetter Ilikewhatiamdoing from winning his fifth straight race.

Marq French finished second by a half-length to Ilikewhatiamdoing in his last race, a five-furlong turf sprint at Remington Park. He gets an additional furlong to work with in the $75,000 claiming race Thursday.

"Maybe that will make the difference where we can get to him," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Marq French.

Marq French will break from post 8 under Tim Doocy.

"I think his best trip is where he's up on the pace or close to the pace," Von Hemel said. "And from an outside post and going three-quarters, you don't have to commit quite as early. Tim will ride him the way he needs to."

Other races on the card include a $40,000 optional-claiming sprint for fillies and mares led by Fair Grounds invader Splendid in Spring, and a first-level allowance route for fillies and mares that has a wire-to-wire threat in Buyin' Time.