02/14/2004 1:00AM

Saltwater Runner gets two-turn test

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Saltwater Runner, who is perfect in three career starts, will test her skills around two turns for the first time in Monday's $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies has been increased from six furlongs, its distance since it was inaugurated in 1979, to serve as an additional prep for the Grade 2 Fantasy. A full field of 12 will go, including Wacky Patty, a Grade 3 winner, and Run Cat Run, a promising sort who was sixth to Ashado last out in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct.

Racing has come easily for Saltwater Runner. She won her debut and an entry-level allowance at Churchill Downs in November, then returned to action last month at Oaklawn and won the $50,000 Dixie Belle.

In that race she defeated Movant, who was to run in the Grade 2 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds on Saturday, as well as Yoursmineandours and Turn to Lass, who both return in the Martha Washington.

Saltwater Runner, who drew post 11, is a daughter of Salt Lake.

"I think she'll handle a mile," said Bob Holthus, who trains the filly for Lewis Lakin. "It will all depend on whether she'll relax. If she'll relax going two turns like she does sprinting, she'll be fine. If they're rank the first part of it, sometimes that takes more out of them than the actual mile race."

Saltwater Runner used closing tactics in her races at Churchill and sat in a stalking position in the Dixie Belle.

"She's always been very kind to do anything with," said Holthus, who has won all three of the stakes in which he has had starters this meet. "Hopefully, she'll do it two turns."

John McKee, who has ridden Saltwater Runner in each of her starts, has the return call Monday.

Wacky Patty should be sharp for the move back to two turns after her runner-up finish in the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24. She was beaten a neck by Silent Sighs after setting the pace in the six-furlong race, which went in 1:10.82.

Wacky Patty recorded her biggest career win around one turn, in the Grade 3 Landaluce at Hollywood Park in July, but she is a winner around two turns. She captured the $75,000 Chargedupsycamore around two turns at Delta Downs in November.

Jamie Theriot has the mount for trainer Cole Norman.

* Oaklawn will give away a total of $55,000 in cash during drawings after the 10 races Monday.