03/03/2003 12:00AM

Sira tough based on versatility

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Sira can go with the flow Wednesday in the featured ninth race at Oaklawn Park. She can control the pace if she gets the jump on Idadidit at the start, but if she doesn't, she can come from behind. So said trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

"If [Idadidit] is going to show that much speed, we don't necessarily have to go with her," said Von Hemel. "[Sira] will be forwardly placed, but she doesn't have to be in front."

Sira and Idadidit are the speed of the $50,000 optional claiming race for fillies and mares, and will break from posts 1 and 2, respectively. The race will be run over six furlongs and has drawn eight, including Art Fair, a closer who would benefit if the two dueled, and Sarah Jade, who makes her comeback from a more than six-month layoff after placing in two stakes last year at Oaklawn.

Sira, however, looks like the one to beat. Her tactical foot gives jockey Don Pettinger options.

Sira finished in front of some of these in her last start, when she ran second, beaten a neck after setting the pace, in her comeback from a near three-month layoff Feb. 17.

"I thought that was a good effort," Von Hemel said. "It was her first out of the year, and she had a pretty good tussle down the lane."

Von Hemel trains Sira for Pin Oak Stable and said the filly, a 4-year-old who has won two of her last three starts, takes her career seriously.

"She's big and strong, and she likes to go out there and train," he said. "She's a nice one to have around."

Trainer Joe Woodard says the same about Art Fair, who could be sitting on a peak race in her third start since May, when she finished ninth in the Kentucky Oaks.

Also a strong-looking 4-year-old, Art Fair won the $50,000 Cincinnati Trophy last January at Turfway, and should see stakes competition later in the meet.

She also should be closer to the pace Wednesday than in her last start, when she closed from last for third in the same race as Sira after getting into trouble at the start.

"About four to five yards out of the gate, she got hammered, but came rolling," said Woodard, who has won with 5 of 16 starters in his first season at Oaklawn.

"Both of her races [here] have been really nice."

Carlos Marquez Jr. has the mount for owner Billy Hays.

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