03/19/2004 12:00AM

'Shake' set to make stir in Hot Springs

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - You are not seeing things. That is Shake You Down racing for a $50,000 purse Sunday in the Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The Hot Springs is a prep for the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn on April 8, and it drew a field of five. Skeet, who earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure for his smashing win last out in the $50,000 King Cotton, was the early favorite for the Hot Springs before Shake You Down set his sights on the race.

Shake You Down, one of the nation's premier sprinters, earned a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in his most recent start, when he won the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 24. Last year, he won a handful of graded stakes and finished second as the favorite in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash and third in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint, a race to which he was supplemented for $90,000.

One of Shake You Down's goals this year is the Count Fleet, but that was just one of the reasons he turned up at Oaklawn for the Hot Springs.

According to Scott Lake, who trains Shake You Down for Robert Cole Jr., the intention was to run Shake You Down in the $125,000 Pelleteri Breeders' Cup at Fair Grounds last Sunday. But flight arrangements to New Orleans could not be made without chartering a private plane. That did not make sense financially, since Shake You Down, who was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup program as a weanling, would have been running for a purse of just $75,000 in the Pelleteri.

Lake changed gears and sent Shake You Down to Oaklawn early. Shake You Down flew to town March 9 and worked a bullet four furlongs in 47 seconds on March 16.

"We'll go for this one and stay for the Count Fleet," said Lake, who has been pleased with how Shake You Down has settled in at Oaklawn. "He's a tremendous horse. He adapts to anything and everything we've thrown at him. He's a pleasure to train."

Mike Luzzi, regular rider on Shake You Down, has the mount for the Hot Springs.

John McKee will ride Skeet, who rallied from a stalking position for a dominant four-length win in the King Cotton. The question now is whether can he repeat that effort Saturday.

"I hope he does," said Bob Holthus, who trains Skeet for Fly Racing. "He'll have to to be competitive. It's a short field, and it's a very tough field."

Also in the Hot Springs field are the quality sprinters Cowboy Stuff, That Tat, and Saint Waki, who have each been impressive winners this meet at Oaklawn.