02/05/2004 12:00AM

Surf N Sand streaks into first stakes


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Surf N Sand, who won all five of her starts last year, will make her stakes debut Saturday in the $50,000 American Beauty at Oaklawn Park.

The six-furlong race drew seven fillies and mares, including defending champ Emily Ring.

Surf N Sand, a 5-year-old daughter of Boston Harbor who has made six career starts, went on a tear last year. She won a maiden race at Santa Anita in January, then picked up two more wins there before capturing optional claiming races at Churchill Downs in May and June.

All of her victories came under the care of trainer Bob Baffert, but two months ago, Surf N Sand was sent to trainer Donnie Von Hemel. She is owned by Charles Heider Jr.

"The family has been a client of ours for quite a while, and they wanted to come race at Oaklawn, and we race here," said Von Hemel. "She's had some good works, and if she runs to her Churchill Downs races, I think she'll be very tough to beat."

In her final prep for the American Beauty, Surf N Sand worked a bullet four furlongs in 48.60 seconds Tuesday. The American Beauty will mark her first start since June 26.

"She's a big, impressive [mare]," said Von Hemel. "There's a lot of horse there."

Don Pettinger has the mount Saturday.

Willie Martinez will ride Emily Ring, who has a recency edge over Surf N Sand. She last raced Jan. 10, finishing second in the $50,000 Wishing Well at Turfway Park. In her final prep for the American Beauty, the Blackie Huffman-trained Emily Ring worked four furlongs in a bullet 46.80 seconds Jan. 23.

For Rubies is also working well. A Grade 3 winner last year, she won a money allowance at Oaklawn in her first start last year. She finds herself in a similar position Saturday, having last raced Oct. 11.

For Rubies has worked consecutive bullets, her latest a six-furlong drill in 1:13.60 last Sunday.

"That should have her where she needs to be," said Lynn Whiting, who trains For Rubies for Choctaw Racing Stable. "She rocked along pretty good."

John McKee, who has won the first three stakes of the meet, has the mount on For Rubies.

Others of note in the field include Holiday Runner, a stakes winner who captured an optional claiming race in her last start Nov. 22, and Eternal Cup, who has placed in stakes in her last two starts.