01/20/2006 12:00AM

Tighter security ready for action


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - It was all systems go on Friday morning for the additional backstretch security measures that the Arkansas Racing Commission is introducing this meet at Oaklawn Park. There is a new backstretch surveillance system with wireless cameras that can be moved to different barns; random, prerace blood testing on horses; and a monitor assigned to stables selected by the stewards.

Images from the cameras are to be transmitted to the test barn, where cameras have also been installed. A former racing official in Indiana has been hired as backstretch monitor. The monitor, Sheri Johns, 28, has worked as a placing judge and entry clerk in Indiana and has also been a groom at Oaklawn. She will patrol the backstretch and will be assigned to watch particular horses by the stewards.

The new measures have been taken for preventative purposes, said George Wadley, the state veterinarian at Oaklawn.

"We think we're doing a good job of security on the backside," Wadley said. "It's not as if there's a great problem. There's not. It's just to ensure that we prevent any of the problems that might come up and that have occurred at other tracks. We'd rather prevent it as to have to deal with it after it happens. That's our philosophy."

Arkansas has been aggressive in the drug-testing arena. Last year, so-called supertests were conducted on random races, not just graded stakes as required. Arkansas also has been a leader in testing for alkalizing agents. During the Oaklawn meet last year, there were no positives for alkalizing agents, and very few equine drug positives.

From a total of 792 samples taken, there was one clenbuterol positive; two overages of dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO; and three overages of phenylbutazone, or bute, according to racing commission records. All of the samples taken were also tested for the blood-enhancer erythropoietin, or EPO, and there were no positives, said Wadley.

The latest initiatives have been well received by horsemen.

"I think that, by and large, everyone that I have talked to thinks that it's a good idea," said Earl Bellamy, president of the Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "I can pretty definitely say we are in agreement with anything that would ensure people that things are on the up-and-up."

The new measures came out of a recent racing commission committee meeting on backstretch security.

"They've always had a reputation as a rather severe enforcer of drug rules," Oaklawn's general manager, Eric Jackson, said of the commission, "and I think this is another step in that direction."

Fillies go to bat for Servis

Trainer John Servis, who last year developed Grade 1 winner Round Pond, has a handful of promising 3-year-old fillies in his stable this meet, and two of them will run on Sunday.

Just Sailing will start in the featured eighth race, a one-mile optional claiming allowance. The other, One Slick Chick, will run in the sixth, a maiden special weight also at a mile.

won her debut at Philadelphia Park on Oct. 8, when she led throughout for a three-length win. One start later, she finished eighth in the $100,000 Blue Hen at Delaware Park, a race in which she flipped her palate, said Servis.

Just Sailing will add blinkers and Lasix on Sunday, and will be ridden by Stewart Elliott. She races for Fox Hill Farms and is a daughter of Cat Thief and a half-sister to stakes winner Sunset Point.

finished third in a restricted stakes in her debut, which came at Philadelphia Park on Nov. 5. In her most recent out, she finished second in a maiden special weight race at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Dec. 17.

"She had a little bit of a rough trip last time, and came flying," said Servis. "I bought her for the Chapmans. She's by Elusive Quality."

Roy and Pat Chapman raced Smarty Jones, a son of Elusive Quality who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2004. Servis trained Smarty Jones and has placed One Slick Chick, purchased at auction for $75,000, in Smarty Jones's old stall at Oaklawn.

Elliott, who rode Smarty Jones, has the mount on One Slick Chick.

Servis has expanded his Oaklawn division this year, from five horses last year to 23 for this meet. One of his top horses, Rockport Harbor, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Friday as he continues preparations for the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap.

* Billy G. Hardcastle, a longtime breeder, owner, and trainer from Washington, Okla., who raced at Oaklawn, died on Jan. 2 following a battle with cancer. He was 69. Hardcastle is survived by his wife, Sue; sons Billy, Bobby, and Tim; and daughters Rhonda and Polly.

- additional reporting by Jeff Taylor