08/12/2008 11:00PM

Agastache back in familiar spot

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Ten years ago, the phrase "optional claimer" hadn't even entered the racing lexicon. Now, optional claimers are everywhere, and trainer Steve Asmussen is taking full advantage of the concept with a horse in his Arlington string named Agastache.

On June 28, the Asmussen-trained Agastache cleared his first allowance condition in an Arlington race also open to $50,000 claimers. On July 19, Agastache was back in the same kind of race, this time entered for the $50,000 tag, and he won again. Friday's ninth is still another entry-level allowance also open to $50,000 claimers, and there for a third time is Agastache, jammed back in for the claiming price.

Why bother upgrading to a second-level allowance, the thinking in Agastache's camp must go, when the gelding can keep winning the same race over and over again? Team Asmussen made this move earlier this meet with a horse named Rumari. Some brave souls jumped in and claimed the horse for the fifty grand, and in three starts since, Rumari has not finished better than fifth, his most recent race having come for a $25,000 tag.

Still, Agastache is anything but a lock in a six-furlong Polytrack race that drew a field of seven. Agastache was up by a desperate nose last out in a race with only five other horses. The one he barely beat, It's Never to Late, returns here, and Friday's race looks tougher than Agastache's most recent start.

It's Never to Late set a torrid pace and almost lasted in the July 19 race, but if he goes to the front this time, It's Never to Late could find company in Hesablumin. The latter, also in for the $50,000 tag, has never raced on a synthetic surface, but his Iowa form looks competitive.

Who Done That may go favored for trainer Rusty Arnold and jockey James Graham. Second in a Churchill maiden race two starts back, he cleared the maiden ranks last out at Churchill in a seven-furlong race, but flopped in his lone race over an all-weather surface.

Two others enter the race off victories, Smiley's Cool Cat having won a Mountaineer maiden-special, and Deep Dish an Arlington $25,000 claimer.

Last, but not least, is Sig and Zag, who gets a class upgrade from trainer Moises Yanez with a bullet half-mile work here Aug. 11, a sign that Sig and Zag is headed for a peak effort Friday.