02/13/2008 12:00AM

Shipper Sierra Sunset owns top resume


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The field for the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Monday will be made up primarily of shippers, and few have come farther for the race than Sierra Sunset. He has flown in from his base at Golden Gate Fields in California for the one-mile race.

Others shipping in for the first leg of Oaklawn's series for 3-year-olds include Turf War, who arrived Saturday morning by van from Ocala, Fla.

Sierra Sunset is one of the most accomplished members in the Southwest's prospective eight- or nine-horse field. He is a multiple stakes winner, among his victories the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles in November. He also won the $72,000 Bay Meadows Juvenile in September.

"I think he's a very good horse," said Jeff Bonde, who trains Sierra Sunset. "He has the ability to route, he has speed, he can stalk, and he's been very consistent."

Sierra Sunset last raced on Jan. 12, and finished fourth in the Grade 3 San Rafael at Santa Anita. Since that race, Santa Anita has canceled some of its cards because of surface problems. Because of that issue, plus the desirable spacing between the San Rafael and Southwest, the decision was made to send Sierra Sunset to Oaklawn. Bonde was solidifying rider plans for the horse on Tuesday.

Sierra Sunset, a son of Bertrando, has won 3 of 9 starts and $198,696.

Turf War, the dead-heat winner of the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs in December, was one of two Southwest candidates who worked at Oaklawn on Tuesday. He breezed a half-mile in 50.20 seconds under Calvin Borel. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:02, according to Mike Anderson, an assistant to trainer Mark Casse.

"All we wanted was a little maintenance," Anderson said. "Calvin was happy with him."

He's Eze, who was fourth last out in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds, also worked a half-mile, going the distance in 49.80 seconds. Trained by Terry Oliver, He's Eze won the $150,000 Jack Price Juvenile at seven furlongs at Calder Race Course in November.

Other 3-year-olds that Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope considers probable for the Southwest are Silver Edition, who was fourth last out in the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream; Isabull, the runner-up in the $50,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn; Denis of Cork, an undefeated colt based at Fair Grounds; and Royal Hudson, an Oaklawn-based colt who won the $100,000 Ascot Graduation Stakes at Hastings in October. Possibles for the Southwest include Liberty Bull, winner of the Smarty Jones, and Sacred Journey, a first-level allowance winner last out at Fair Grounds.

split Martha Washington?

The Southwest is one of three stakes scheduled for the holiday weekend at Oaklawn. The track will race five days this week, including Presidents Day on Monday. Leading up to the Southwest, the $50,000 Pippin, expected to be a match-up of Grade 2 winners High Heels and Kettleoneup, will be run on Saturday. The $50,000 Martha Washington, a one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, will go Sunday.

However, there has been so much interest in the Martha Washington that the race could be split into two divisions. Pope said if there are 16 or more betting interests entered in the race, it will be split. As of Tuesday, it was looking like that would be the case.

"I've got 13 that are looking for it," Pope said of the Martha Washington, "and I've got four or five that are interested if the race splits."

Among the top candidates for the Martha Washington, the first stakes on the road to the Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn, are Eight Belles and Sky Mom.

Superior Storm, a winner of two stakes in her last two starts, is being considered for the race, said her trainer, Rick Jackson. Trainer Dan Peitz said Holistic, an impressive maiden winner opening weekend at Oaklawn, is a probable to run.