03/25/2003 1:00AM

Twinwinwin is horse for the course


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Oaklawn Park agrees with Twinwinwin. The filly has won 2 of 3 starts since she shipped in from New York two months ago, which makes her the one to beat Thursday in the featured ninth race, a $45,000 optional claimer worth $34,000.

The 1 1/16-mile race drew six, including stakes winner Sarah Jade, who gets back to arguably her best distance for her second start since August.

Twinwinwin has been in a zone at Oaklawn, winning her last two races, both conditioned allowances at 1 1/16 miles. In her other start at the meet, she ran second.

"She's as good as she's ever been for me right now," said Robert Klesaris, who trains Twinwinwin for Nelson McMakin. "She obviously likes the racetrack. We also started rating her a bit."

A former front-runner, Twinwinwin has used stalking tactics in all of her starts at the meet. In her most recent start, she won with authority after sitting in fourth early against a two-other-than crowd, on March 5.

Klesaris, based in New York, is in his first season at Oaklawn. He sent a string of horses to Hot Springs at the request of a client, and next year plans to return. So far, Klesaris has won with 7 of 37 starters at Oaklawn, and made a splash opening weekend when he went 3 for 7.

"It's been an interesting meet," he said. "I tested the waters to see what it was like this year, to see what type of horses fit."

There's no question where Twinwinwin fits. She can stalk the pace if Sarah Jade goes out quickly or she can use her natural speed and take the lead from the start from her rail post. Terry Thompson will ride Twinwinwin.

Sarah Jade lost all chance at the start in her comeback race in a six-furlong optional claimer last out, breaking in the air and hitting the starting gate. She came out of the race fine, said Mac Robertson, assistant to his father, trainer Hugh Robertson.

Her works suggest as much. Sarah Jade has drilled six furlongs in 1:13.80, then five furlongs in 1:00 since her last race. The move back to two turns Thursday should benefit the filly, who is a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles. Carlos Marquez Jr. has the mount for Jer-Mar Stables.

- Oaklawn will raise overnight purses $1,000 across the board beginning with Sunday's program. The purse hike will stay in effect through the end of the meet, April 12.

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