08/15/2003 11:00PM

At 15-1, Kicken Kris takes Secretariat

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Kicken Kris kicked away from his 10 rivals in upper stretch before pulling away to a surprisingly easy 15-1 upset in the Grade 1, $400,000 Secretariat Stakes, the last of the three Turf Festival races run Saturday at Arlington Park.

Kicken Kris, ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Michael Matz, raced in third for most of the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat before moving to challenge in the final turn. After turning for home, Kicken Kris cruised past longshots Gato Gato Gato and Native Hawk, then was never threatened when prevailing by 3 1/2 lengths over Joe Bear, a late-running 20-1 shot.

Lismore Knight finished third, another two lengths back, while the 3-1 favorites, France and Just Wonder, finished fourth and 10th, respectively, without apparent excuses.

Kicken Kris, based at Fairhill in northeast Maryland, had finished second in his previous start, the July 12 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs.

"He was really sharp today," said Castellano. "Mr. Matz gave me a lot of confidence before the race. He said to ride him comfortable, confident, and he made me feel like I had a lot of horse under me today."

Kicken Kris returned $32 after finishing in 2:02.53 over a good turf course. The exacta paid $414.20, and the trifecta paid $3,711.80.

Kicken Kris, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Kris S., is owned by the Brushwood Stable of Elizabeth Moran. Brushwood achieved its height of fame in the 1980's with the great gelding Creme Fraiche. Matz said he believed that Moran watched the Secretariat at a simulcast facility in the northwestern United States while vacationing with family.

Matz, a former Olympic equestrian competitor in his fifth year as a licensed Thoroughbred trainer, was ecstatic after winning the first Grade 1 race of his career. He said Kicken Kris, who took six tries to win a maiden race, had improved tremendously in recent months after being switched from dirt to turf.

"Once we got him on the turf ... obviously he's a pretty nice horse," Matz said.

The Grade 1 win was the third for the New York-based Castellano, who won two such races in 2001 aboard Exogenous, the filly who died later that year as the result of a fall in the post parade prior to the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont Park.