03/10/2004 12:00AM

Turf-to-dirt plan may work again for 'Keys'

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The last time Keys to the Heart went from turf to dirt, she won the biggest race of her career. That could happen again Saturday, when she makes the same surface switch for the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup at Oaklawn Park.

Keys to the Heart comes into the Oaklawn BC, a 1 1/16- mile race for fillies and mares, on the heels of a three-quarter length win in an optional claimer on turf at Santa Anita on Feb. 12. She covered the one-mile distance in a sharp 1:35.38.

"I actually think she's probably a little better on the dirt," said Beau Greely, who trains Keys to the Heart for her breeder, Thomas Nichols. "The last time she went turf to dirt she won a Grade 3."

Keys to the Heart won the Grade 3, $100,000 Hawthorne at Hollywood Park last April. The win was the richest of her career, but that could change Saturday. Keys to the Heart figures prominently in the Oaklawn BC, especially with the defection of favorite Cat Fighter.

"She's doing really well," Greely said, referring to Keys to the Heart. "If she runs a good race, we'd like to keep her there for the Apple Blossom."

The Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom will be run April 3. Keys of the Heart flew into Hot Springs from her Hollywood Park base on Monday.

"She's settled in and went like a dream on the track today," Greely said.

Greely's last Oaklawn starter was Go for Glamour, who finished third in last year's Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes. Greely has given the mount on Keys to the Heart to Terry Thompson.

Other probables are Spectacular Lisa, to be ridden by Robby Albarado; Mayo on the Side, Tim Doocy; My Trusty Cat, Justin Shepherd; Drexel Monorail, Jamie Theriot; There Runs Hattie, John McKee; Golden Sonata, Carlos Marquez, Jr.; and La Reason, James Lopez. Possibles are Handpainted and Small Promises.

The other weekend feature, the Grade 3, $100,000 Razorback Handicap, will be run Sunday. Pie N Burger is highweighted at 119 pounds for the Razorback, a 1 1/16-mile race that should produce starters for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. Other probables are Crafty Shaw, to be ridden by Craig Perret; Docent, Don Pettinger; Dusty Spike, Cliff Berry; No Comprende, Willie Martinez; and Sonic West, Carlos Marquez, Jr.

Crowned King headed to Delta

Crowned King has won four stakes and more than $400,000 in his career, but his best race might have come in a $100,000 optional claimer last Saturday at Oaklawn.

Crowned King ($20.20) rallied up the rail in the 1 1/16-mile race, then drew clear by 4 1/2 lengths, defeating Grade 3 winner Added Edge and multiple stakes winner Gimmeabreak.

For his effort, Crowned King earned a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure. Billy McKeever, who co-owns and trains Crowned King, said Crowned King will likely make his next start in the $100,000 Gulf Coast Classic at Delta Downs on its closing night, March 27.

Crowned King, who was ridden by Chandra Rennie, is based at Oaklawn, where he won the Rebel Stakes last year. He also won the $50,000 Bossier City Handicap and $40,000 Minstrel at Louisiana Downs, and the $200,000 USA Stakes at Lone Star Park.

"I was impressed with his race," McKeever said, referring to Crowned King's performance Saturday. "To me, he kind of closed as strong as he did in the Rebel and the Bossier City."

Crowned King raced closer to the pace than usual in the optional claimer, sitting in third, about six lengths behind the leaders. The move was deliberate.

"Chandra had said after his [previous start] he was wanting to get up closer to the pace and the other day he did," McKeever said. "At Delta, we'll have to be in it."

Crowned King finished third in the Sportsman's Paradise last March at Delta, a six-furlong oval, before shipping to Oaklawn and winning the Rebel.

Allowance lures some away

A number of nominees to the Oaklawn BC have opted to run in an allowance Friday. The allowance, which is run at 1 1/16 miles, drew seven fillies and mares, including Oaklawn BC nominees Blue Guru, Due to Win, Cherylville Slew, and Lake Kinneret.

Cherylville Slew was beaten a nose by Pampered last out in a Feb. 25 optional claimer. Cherylville Slew was closing up the rail, but jumped some starting gate tracks in a move that might have cost her the win. Cliff Berry has the mount for owner-trainer C.R. Trout.

Blue Guru defeated a nice field of optional claimers the last time she raced at Oaklawn, including eventual $50,000 Pippin winner Drexel Monorail. Also in that race was stakes winner Due to Win. Shane Wilson trains Blue Guru for Cunningham Racing, LLC and has given the mount to James Lopez.