03/13/2002 1:00AM

Search Party takes last shot at stakes


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Search Party will try to go out a stakes winner Saturday in the $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup for fillies and mares. The 1 1/16-mile race is the richest of two Grade 3 stakes on the program at Oaklawn Park, the other being the $100,000 Razorback Handicap, which matches Crafty Shaw, a winner of his last four races, against Mr Ross, a winner of $1 million.

Search Party, a graded stakes-placed earner of $250,254, was flown from Miami to Oaklawn on Wednesday morning, and will be making her career finale start on Saturday.

"She's been a nice filly for us," said Shug McGaughey, who trains Search Party for Stuart Janney III. "She never won a stakes, but we hope she can go home a stakes winner. She deserves to. She's been nice to have around."

In her last start, Search Party finished fourth to Grade 1 Spinster winner Miss Linda in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sabin Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 8. Forest Secrets, winner of the Grade 1 Acorn, ran second in the race, with Tap Dance, winner of the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss, third.

"It was a good race," said McGaughey. "The fillies that ran one-two-three are top fillies, so that means she ran a good race against top company. Hopefully, this race won't be quite that tough."

McGaughey, a Hot Springs regular in the early 1980's who won last year's Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap with Traditionally, chose the Oaklawn B.C. for Search Party for a couple of reasons.

"I thought maybe she'd like that racetrack," he said, adding that the timing of the race works, too, as the mare is to be bred this season.

Search Party, a daughter of Seeking the Gold and Deputation, has been booked to Kentucky Derby winner Maria's Mon.

Jon Court, who won the Oaklawn title in 2000, has the mount Saturday.

Holy Gem cuts back

Holy Gem, whose best career race came over six furlongs, turns back to that distance Friday at Oaklawn in the featured ninth race, a conditioned allowance worth $30,000. A competitive race, it has also drawn Song Dancer, a promising colt trained by Don Von Hemel; Spin Time, who exits a fast race for trainer Dan Switzer; and the uncoupled April's Lucky Boy and Red and Rare, two stakes winners trained by Donnie Von Hemel.

Holy Gem has been competitive around two turns in his last two outs, but could benefit from this return to a sprint. Jockey James Lopez has the mount for trainer Pete Vestal.

Red and Rare, a sharp third in the $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes over six furlongs Jan. 26, removes blinkers and returns to sprinting for his third start of the meet. He will be ridden by Tim Doocy.

Evangeline purses: $85,000 a day

Evangeline Downs in Lafayette, La., will distribute $85,000 a day in purses during its upcoming Thoroughbred meet, which will run 82 days from April 13 to Sept. 2. The highlight of the track's nine-race stakes schedule will be the $140,000-estimated D.S. "Shine" Young Memorial Futurity, a five-furlong race for 2-year-old statebreds that takes place on July 4.

Other top stakes during the meet are the $75,000 Evangeline Mile for 3-year-olds and up on Aug. 17; the $30,000 Sprint Championship on June 22; and the $50,000 Lafayette Stakes on Sept. 2.

* Remington Park will not bring back the unusual entry system it introduced last year for either its Quarter Horse meet, which opens April 5, or its Thoroughbred meet, which begins in August. The entry system eliminated morning rundowns, or updates on how races are filling.

* Devout Sinner, who has won four stakes in her last five starts, will pass Saturday's Oaklawn Breeders' Cup Handicap in favor of the $75,000 Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn on April 5, or the $75,000 Irving Distaff at Lone Star Park on April 13, said her owner and trainer, Joan Charlton.

* Oaklawn will go to a 72-hour entry format for the last week of the meet, April 10-13. The early draw will allow the track to disseminate information early for a national pick three, linking the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland, and the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby on April 13.