04/06/2004 11:00PM

Tricky Taboo moves on to next level

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Tricky Taboo has stepped up his game considerably since he began racing around two turns in February, and was second to Sinister G at 54-1 last out in the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End at Turfway Park.

Tricky Taboo, who arrived at Oaklawn last Saturday, is 12-1 on the morning line for Saturday's Arkansas Derby.

"He ran an incredible race last time," said Ed Frederick, who trains Tricky Taboo for Oak Haven Farm. "He was seventh or eighth [early] in the Lane's End and got carried five wide in the first turn, then just made up a ton of ground on a track that horses weren't making up a lot of ground on."

Following such a strong race, Frederick looked at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial for Tricky Taboo, but decided to come to Oaklawn.

"I was real comfortable coming here because I'd been here for so many years," said Frederick, a Kentucky native who trained at Oaklawn in the 1990's. "Obviously, we're hoping he's going to improve off that race, and he should. He's [one of the few] in there that's gone a mile and an eighth, and I think that's going to give us a bit [of an edge]."

The Lane's End was run over 1 1/8 miles, and Hasslefree, who was sixth in the race, and Borrego, who was second in the nine-furlong Sham in February, are the only other horses in the field who have experience at the distance. Tricky Taboo has $100,000 in graded earnings, more than all of his rivals in the Arkansas Derby but Borrego.

"He's only run five times, so I think we have to give him a shot," said Frederick. "He was a real big monster as a 2-year-old, and we waited on him and didn't run him until December. In his second start, when he ran 6 1/2 furlongs, he came running like a horse that wanted to go two turns, so we decided to try him a mile.

"He's just been awesome since he started going two turns, and of course his bottom side just begs for distance."

Tricky Taboo, who is by Mazel Trick, is out of Strictly Taboo, a Spectacular Bid mare who is a half-sister Oaklawn Handicap winner The Wicked North and Ohio Derby winner Wild and Wicked. Overall, Tricky Taboo has won two of five starts and $138,485.

Tricky Taboo has natural speed, and Frederick looks for him to race closer to the pace Saturday than he did in the Lane's End. Tony D'Amico has the mount Saturday.

"If they go with Smarty Jones and we can tuck right in behind them, I think we'll be there," said Frederick.

Wild Spirit eyes repeat in Delaware

Wild Spirit, who finished second to Azeri in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom last Saturday, may not make her next start until

July 18 in the Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park, said her trainer, Bobby Frankel.

"You've got the whole year, and she ran hard today, and all the big money's at the end of the year," Frankel said.

Wild Spirit won the Delaware Handicap last year, along with the Grade 1 Ruffian and Grade 2 Shuvee. Bred in Chile, she races for Sumaya Us Stables.

McKee closing out strong meet

John McKee, who has dominated in his first meet at Oaklawn, will win the title when the season closes Saturday. From there, he said he will head back home to Keeneland.

"It's been a good meet," said McKee. "I've met a lot of people and had a lot of opportunities."

McKee had won with 68 of 354 starters through Tuesday. His mounts have earned $1.4 million, which is more than any other rider this meet. Tim Doocy, Jamie Theriot, and Roman Chapa are tied for second in the standings with 46 wins each.

McKee is booked solid for the remaining stakes during the Festival. He was to ride Skeet for trainer Bob Holthus in the Grade 3 Count Fleet on Thursday; Stellar Jayne in the Grade 2 Fantasy on Friday for trainer D. Wayne Lukas; and Pro Prado for Holthus in the Arkansas Derby.

Keys to the Heart to be bred

Keys to the Heart, who in her last two starts has finished fifth in the Apple Blossom and second in the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup, has been retired and is scheduled to be bred to Came Home, said her trainer, Beau Greely.

"She's 5 and she's a Grade 3 winner," said Greely. "She's sound, so if for some reason she did not get in foal, we'd put her back in training. But as of now she's going to be bred. She'll go to Wintergreen Farm."

Keys to the Heart recorded the biggest win of her career in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap at Hollywood Park in April 2003. She is a daughter of Wild Again and races for Thomas Nichols. Came Home is a Grade 1 winner of $1.8 million.

* Silver Swinger, a 9-year-old who ran one of the fastest six-furlong times of the meet when he won a $20,000 claimer in 1:09.80 in January, is being pointed for the Claiming Crown, said his trainer, Larry Jones.

* Jockey Travis Hightower said after Oaklawn he will head to Canada to ride at Assiniboia Downs. He will ride first call for leading trainer Gary Danelson. Last year, Hightower was the runaway leading rider at Assiniboia.

* Morning Merry, a multiple stakes winner and impressive allowance winner earlier this meet, is being freshened and will make his return during the second half of the meet at Arlington Park, said his trainer, Jim McCoy.

* Humble Thirteen, who has been named broodmare of the year in Arkansas, is to be bred to Mutakddim, said her owner, Jim Danaher. Humble Thirteen is a stakes winner and a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Humble Clerk.

* Cecil Alexander, chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission, was awarded the Joan F. Pew Award last week during the National RCI meeting in New Orleans.

* If weather permits, the infield will be open Friday and Saturday.