02/19/2002 1:00AM

Smooth sailing would be nice for Crafty Shaw


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Crafty Shaw, who overcame trouble to win last month's $75,000 Diplomat Way by a neck, will go after his fourth consecutive win Saturday in the Grade 3, $75,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

There were five probable starters for the 1 1/16-mile race early in the week. Connections for the 122-pound highweight and defending champ, Mr Ross, were still deciding Tuesday between the Essex and $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf at Sam Houston Race Park, which also runs Saturday.

For the Essex, officials are expecting Jadada, Kiss of Lion, Maysville Slew, and Remington Rock.

* will be looking for a cleaner trip Saturday. In the Diplomat Way, run over 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds on Jan. 20, he had his share of obstacles to overcome. "It was a very rough trip," said trainer Pete Vestal.

"He got into some traffic on the backstretch, and [regular rider] James [Lopez] had to pull him up at one point because he clipped heels with the horse in front of him. From then on, he didn't have a lot of racing room until very late."

Crafty Shaw managed to split horses inside the final furlong, but his connections thought he still had too much work to do. "Even 40 yards from the wire, I thought we were going to be second," said Vestal. "[But] he just lengthened his stride impressively." For his effort, Crafty Shaw earned a 102 Beyer Figure.

Jockey race heats up

Jockey Terry Thompson won seven races last week to gain a one-win advantage in the standings over James Lopez. His week was highlighted by a win in the $50,000 Pippin with Red N' Gold, one of a number of mounts Thompson has had this meet for leading trainer Bob Holthus.

"We've had just an unbelievable percentage with the horses run," said Thompson. "I've only had one that hasn't hit the board from 12 to 15 [mounts for Holthus]."

Thompson, regular rider on top Iowa-bred Sure Shot Biscuit, came to Oaklawn for the first time last year in the hopes of picking up new clients for Prairie Meadows, where he has been the leading rider the past two years. The venture was a success, as he finished fourth in the standings behind Calvin Borel.

"Calvin won it pretty easy, but from second to fourth in the standings, we were like a win apart," said Thompson, who also made a valuable contact in Holthus, winning two local stakes for the trainer last year aboard Son of Rocket.

This year, Thompson has had an opportunity to get on more Holthus trainees with Joe Judice, one of the trainer's main stable riders, sidelined with injury. Thompson also gets choice mounts for trainer Don Von Hemel.

In addition to his success at Prairie Meadows, Thompson has won the last two riding titles at Hoosier Park.

Temperence Time back after 2 years

Temperence Time, a two-time stakes winner at Oaklawn who has not raced since he was sixth in the Essex in 2000, returns from a 24-month layoff in the eighth race Thursday, a one-mile allowance worth $34,000.

The race has also drawn C.L. Bid, who has the field's highest last-race Beyer, and Dust on the Bottle, one of the richest Arkansas-breds in history with earnings of $638,312.

Temperence Time had been sidelined with a chronic quarter crack in his left front hoof. He has spent some of his down time in Hackett, Ark. "We kept him up for a while to let that foot grow out," said Elmer Moses, a former trainer who co-owns Temperence Time with Robert Barker. "I think he'll do good in his comeback. He's a horse that gives it all he's got."

Temperence Time experienced his greatest success as a 3-year-old when he won the Grade 3, $300,000 Remington Park Derby. Overall, he has won won 7 of 13 starts and $396,458.

* Jockey Anthony Lovato, who bruised a kidney and leg when kicked by a horse Feb. 10, returns to the saddle for the first time in six race days Thursday.

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