04/01/2009 11:00PM

Two from New Orleans hope it's dry


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A thunderstorm slammed Oaklawn Park midcard on Thursday, but there was no precipitation in the forecast for Saturday's card, which was welcome news for the connections of Honest Man and It's a Bird. The horses are co-highweights for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap, one start after being beaten by Macho Again on a wet track in the Grade 2 New Orleans at Fair Grounds.

"Hopefully, we'll have some decent weather," said Larry Jones, who trains Honest Man.

The Oaklawn, at 1 1/8 miles, is half of the Million Dollar Saturday program here. The other is the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom, and together the races herald the start of the Racing Festival of the South, when at least one stakes a day will be run at Oaklawn through the close of the meet next Saturday.

Honest Man was the favorite in the New Orleans Handicap on March 14, and finished eighth under regular rider Gabriel Saez. One start earlier, he won the Grade 3 Mineshaft at Fair Grounds, earning a career-high Beyer Figure of 106.

"I did not expect him to not like the mud last time, but he didn't," said Jones. "Gabe told me that in the post parade he knew he was in trouble. He wasn't setting his feet down right on the slop."

Honest Man has come back and worked well over a wet track at Oaklawn, striding out nicely on Tuesday, when he breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40. He figures to be tough to handle if he runs back to his performance in the Mineshaft for owners WinStar Farm and Fox Hill Farm.

"This horse can run," said Jones. "On his good days, he's very good."

So is It's a Bird, who put up a Beyer Figure of 107 two starts ago, when he won the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 24. One start later, he finished third in the New Orleans.

"I'm not sure he was crazy about the way the track was," said Marty Wolfson, who trains It's a Bird for Edmund Gann. "It was very muddy all day, and while he has handled slop, he was stuck on the inside and it just wasn't a good track for him that day."

Julien Leparoux has the mount on It's a Bird, who is one of two horses who can become a millionaire with a win Saturday. The other is Jonesboro, a multiple graded winner at Oakawn. Adding further depth to the field is Secret Getaway, the winner of the $58,000 Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds in November. In his last start he was second by a length in the New Orleans Handicap.

"He ran big," said Michael Stidham, who trains Secret Getaway for Carmen Wilson. "We actually thought we were a winner inside the eighth pole and then Macho Again kind of kicked in and got it."

Secret Getaway has stepped up his game in his last several starts, earning three triple-digit Beyer Figures in his last four races. The numbers were earned on both wet and dry tracks.

"The horse has won on turf, on Poly, on slop, and dirt," Stidham said. "He's won on every surface, so you can't really say one moves him up more than the other."

Cliff Berry has the mount on Secret Getaway, who will break from post 3. He is the second highweight at 117 pounds, while Honest Man and It's a Bird will each tote 119.

Prom Shoes won the $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn two starts ago on Feb. 7, and figures to be a late-running threat for trainer Jinks Fires.

* Oaklawn is scheduled to open its infield for Saturday, with a high of 77 degrees in the forecast from