02/21/2007 1:00AM

Steppenwolfer makes his '07 debut


HOT SPRINGS, Ark - Steppenwolfer will make his 4-year-old debut Friday at Oaklawn Park in the featured ninth race, which will serve as his stepping-stone to the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap here March 9, said his trainer, Dan Peitz.

Steppenwolfer is one of eight horses in the

1 1/16-mile allowance. Also in the race are stakes winners Middleweight, Shaky Town, Silver Haze, Pressed, and Sampson's Son. The field also includes the stakes-placed R's Star and Churchill Downs allowance winner Prayer Service.

Last year, Steppenwolfer ran third to Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby on May 6 and fourth to Jazil in the Belmont Stakes in his last start, June 10. Prior to those races, Steppenwolfer wintered at Oaklawn. While here last year, he won an allowance, ran second in both the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby and the $250,000 Southwest, and ran third in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel. All three of those stakes were won by Lawyer Ron.

"To me, he's trained very similar to the way he trained here last year," Peitz said of Steppenwolfer.

Steppenwolfer missed a scheduled start last year in the Grade 2, $1 million Virginia Derby with a fever, and when he didn't seem like himself after that, he was given a break. Robert and Lawana Low, who own Steppenwolfer, turned him out at a farm in Ocala, Fla., in late August. He has been working at Oaklawn since January.

"It's time to run," Peitz said. "He's ready. I think I've done enough with him. He's definitely fit enough to run. Is he fit enough to win? I don't know about that. But he's definitely fit enough to run and run well."

Steppenwolfer, a closer, will break from post 3 under Terry Thompson.

"The fact that there's not a lot of pace in the race probably doesn't help me," said Peitz. "He usually needs a little bit of pace in front of him, so if it turns into a sprint the last three-eighths, which it looks like it could, we might be in trouble. But, maybe on class alone he wins anyway."

Steppenwolfer, a son of Aptitude, is the class of the field as a winner of $621,520. Aside from the Razorback, the other major meet objective for Steppenwolfer is the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 7, Peitz said.