04/04/2003 12:00AM

Ten expected for Ark. Derby

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The Racing Festival of the South will shift focus to 3-year-olds this week, with 10 horses expected for the Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby on Saturday.

The 1 1/8-mile Derby is one of four stakes for 3-year-olds during the Festival. The others are the Grade 2, $200,000 Fantasy for 3-year-old fillies Friday, and the $75,000 Northern Spur and the $75,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup, which will both support the Arkansas Derby.

Oaklawn officials Friday said the Derby field had picked up two starters, Cat Genius and Saint Liam. A possible is Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby winner Region of Merit, who is 4 for 5.

Cat Genius ran his record to 4 for 5 in his last start when he won the $75,000 Sportsman's Paradise over Crowned King, who returned to win the $125,000 Rebel at Oaklawn in his final prep for the Arkansas Derby.

Cat Genius's lone defeat came in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes when he grabbed a quarter at the start as the favorite. He is trained by Tom Amoss.

Saint Liam was a sharp maiden winner in his last start at Gulfstream Park for trainer Anthony Reinstedler.

Among the early probables, Cat Genius and Great Notion are the early speed horses. Others expected for the race are Aristocat, second in the Tampa Bay Derby, and Man Among Men, the $75,000 Sham winner who is scheduled to fly to Oaklawn Monday for trainer Gary Mandella.

Beau's Town weighted at 122

Beau's Town has been made the 122-pound highweight for the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Thursday. The six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up had commitments from a number of locals Friday. There is a 75-percent chance Beau's Town will start in the race, said co-owner Dave Hulkewicz.

The horse also remains under consideration for the Grade 2, $250,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at Keeneland April 13.

Beau's Town, winner of the $150,000 Pelleteri Breeders' Cup at Fair Grounds in his last start, came out of a five-furlong workout in 1:01 Thursday in good order.

"It was an excellent work," Hulkewicz said. "It was by design. He went slow early and finished strong and galloped out 1:13 and change for six furlongs. He's on 'go.' "

Sand Ridge, weighted at 113, Friday worked a bullet four furlongs in 46.60 seconds for the Count Fleet.

"He worked very well this morning," said Don Von Hemel, who trains Sand Ridge for Thunderhead Farms. Ken Shino has the mount Thursday.

Others expected are Cojet, 116, Honor Me, 116, and Chindi, 113.

Oaklawn racing dates requested

Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson has requested a 55-day meet from Jan. 23 to April 10 next year from the Arkansas Racing Commission. The request was to come before the panel Saturday.

"We're asking for the same dates next year, hoping this year is an aberration," Jackson said.

An unusually strong winter weather pattern forced Oaklawn to lose six days at the meet, equaling the track's record for lost days in a meet because of bad weather. The cold weather also forced a number of cancellations this winter at Turfway Park and Aqueduct.