03/10/2010 1:00AM

Track more favorable to Chief of Affairs


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Warmer temperatures over the past few weeks have led to a quicker racing surface at Oaklawn, and that figures to suit the speed horse Chief of Affairs in Thursday's ninth race.

He should start as the favorite in the third-level optional $65,000 claiming sprint. Six older horses are entered in the 5 1/2-furlong race, including Oaklawn stakes winner Dance Caller.

Chief of Affairs fell a length short of winning an Oaklawn stakes in his last start Feb. 5. He raced with the pace in the $50,000 King Cotton, took over, and was caught late by Cosmic. One race prior, Chief of Affairs set the pace in a $50,000 optional claiming sprint, and finished third by three-quarters of a length.

"His last two races have been great," said Bret Calhoun, who trains Chief of Affairs. "I think he's been a little unlucky in both races. They were run in a period of time when the track was extremely deep. That track was tiring."

But in the last few weeks, the surface has been tighter as temperatures in the 50s and 60s have enabled track crews to maintain the moisture content of the surface. Chief of Affairs figures to get over such ground well, and while there is other speed to his outside Thursday, he might be the dominant speed. He will break from the rail under Cliff Berry.

"Last time we got a great trip, sitting outside and taking over," Calhoun said. "Obviously, we'll be down on the inside and taking all the pressure this time. There are some nice horses in there. [But] he's pretty fast, too."

Dance Caller enters off a two-length win over $50,000 claiming rivals here on Feb. 6. Calvin Borel was aboard, and has the call again Thursday.

"He ran well the last time, and he usually runs good for Calvin," said Bob Holthus, who trains Dance Caller.

Dance Caller, the winner of the Northern Spur last year at Oaklawn, will break from post 5.

"He likes to be on the lead or close to it," said Holthus.

Agastache, the third-place finisher in the King Cotton who last out missed by a nose in a $75,000 optional claimer here, also merits respect.

Steal Your Face, a stakes-winning closer, could get a nice setup.