02/05/2008 1:00AM

Which race for Silver Lord?


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Silver Lord will be running in a handicap on Saturday. The question is, which one? Silver Lord was entered Monday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Mineshaft at Fair Grounds, where in his last start he won the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 103. But his connections plan to also enter him Thursday in the $100,000 Essex Handicap, which will be run at his home base of Oaklawn Park.

Both races are at 1 1/16 miles, with seven set for the Mineshaft and, according to Oaklawn stakes coordinator Craig Lytel, nine to 11 horses for the Essex. A decision on Silver Lord's status will be made over the next several days, said Ron Moquett, who trains the horse for Bowman-Couch Racing.

"I'm going to let the chips fall and see where I should be," Moquett said Tuesday. "I want to see who else is in the [Essex] and where we draw. Whatever is the best for my owners and the horse is what I want to do."

Silver Lord drew post 5 at Fair Grounds, and Moquett said he would hate to draw an outside post for the Essex.

"My concerns about Oaklawn would be the trip that we would get," he said. "I want to know where we're at. This is more of an analyzing deal to see what kind of horse we've got. I don't want the trip to be the deciding factor, you know. If there's 12 horses in the [Essex], and he draws the 9, 10, or whatever and you're caught wide, then you don't get a true measure of your horse."

Corey Lanerie is named on Silver Lord in the Mineshaft, and will also be named to ride him in the Essex, said Moquett.

Finance Minister arrived at Oaklawn from his southern Florida base on Tuesday morning for the Essex, according to his trainer, Juan Arias. No rider has been lined up for Finance Minister, a stakes winner who was third in the Grade 3 Kenny Noe Jr. at Calder in December.

Others that Lytel expects for the Essex include Jonesboro, who is the race's defending champ, Beta Capo, Gouldings Green, Moyer's Pond, Prom Shoes, and Richland Creek. The race is the first of three stakes on the road to the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

Roberts comes out firing

Trainer Stanley Roberts of Forrest City, Ark., has gotten off to a fast start here. He leads the standings with eight wins, three more than Steve Hobby. Roberts has had 22 starters, and his 36 percent win rate is tops among trainers who have started at least 10 horses this meet.

"We always start off late every year and do good at the end of the meet, so I just hope it will hold on through the meet," said Roberts, 66. "I hope we don't get short at the end of the meet."

Roberts said he changed his schedule with his horses this year, bringing them into Oaklawn soon after the track opened for training in early December. In the past, he had kept them at his training center into early January. The situation this year put him ahead of schedule training-wise, which has translated into fast results.

Roberts has had a couple of notable debut winners, including Explosive Ghazi. He captured a maiden special weight race for Arkansas-breds Jan. 31 with a strong stretch kick, earning a Beyer of 77. Roberts said Explosive Ghazi is a candidate for the $50,000 Rainbow for 3-year-old statebreds here March 30.

Apprentice Dylan Williams rode Explosive Ghazi, one of seven winners he has been aboard for Roberts. Roberts has 28 horses in training here.

* The pick six was hit for the first time this meet last Saturday, with the four winning tickets on the combination of 6-4-5-5-7-1 each returning $50,379 after an eight-day carryover. According to officials, two of the winning tickets were purchased ontrack, another through XpressBet and another through a Choctaw-owned facility in Pacola, Okla.