02/07/2007 12:00AM

Semaphore Man draws better


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Semaphore Man looked good in the $50,000 King Cotton at Oaklawn Park the first time around. He looks even better in the race after was redrawn for Friday.

The King Cotton was canceled last week because of inclement weather, and for the second go-round it has picked up two new players in multiple stakes winners Rodeo's Castle and Celluloid Hero.

But favoritism in the six-furlong race should still fall to Semaphore Man, who will break from post 4. The first time the King Cotton was drawn, he was on the rail. The new post for Friday pleased his trainer, Kelly Von Hemel.

"He doesn't mind the inside, but he seems to run a little better, like most horses do, kind of on the outside, kind of with no pressure on them," said Von Hemel.

Semaphore Man has turned in a series of strong works for the King Cotton. He went five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.80 here Jan. 19, then came back and went the same distance in a sharp 58.40 seconds Jan. 26. The race will be his first start since he finished fourth in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows on July 1.

"He just needed a little time off, and we like to get him fresh for here, because he seems to run his best races here," said Von Hemel. "He's doing really good, and I'm very happy where we're at."

Semaphore Man, who is looking for his first stakes win, has a 4-for-6 record at Oaklawn, where last year he ran third to Bordonaro in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap. Semaphore Man could get a nice tracking trip behind the rail-drawn Random Gold and such other quick rivals as Celluloid Hero, High Adventure, and Lineofbull.

"We always like to stalk with him," Von Hemel said of Semaphore Man. "He's going to be fresh. He should be laying pretty forwardly placed."

If the pace is hot, it would benefit Grade 3 winner Level Playingfield, who will break from posto8 under John McKee.

"He comes from off the pace, especially going six furlongs," said Bob Holthus, who trains Level Playingfield. "Seven-eighths is probably his best race, but he will get up going six furlongs. He's a tough little horse."

A quick pace would also suit Smalltown Slew, who closed for fourth in the $100,000 Colonel Power at Fair Grounds in his last start, Jan. 13. Trainer Tom Amoss has given the mount to leading rider Calvin Borel.