10/24/2002 11:00PM

Allspice the hot one off maiden win

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - In the end, the connections of Allspice could not say no to the $100,000 Eliza, one of two stakes on Sunday, Arlington's closing day. And while the 2-year-old filly runs in the shadow of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, continued progress would propel her toward the head of her class.

Allspice won an Oct. 3 one-mile maiden race here by 16 lengths, showing good speed and a rare ability to sustain it over a distance of ground. Though jockey Chris Emigh never asked for much in the stretch, Allspice was timed in 1:36.53, much faster than the winning times in Arlington's pair of Grade 3 stakes for 2-year-olds late last month.

But as recently as last week, Gene Cilio, who trains Allspice for owner Jim Tafel, said Allspice probably would pass the Eliza. Cilio didn't want to rush his filly into a stakes race, and wasn't thrilled at the idea of turning her back from a mile to seven furlongs.

But here she is, and even with only the maiden win, Allspice is the horse to watch. While she may be more of a distance horse, there are no real burners in the stakes to set a pace she can't keep up with, and that's the scenario in which Allspice may be most vulnerable.

Still, she is not without competition. Diamonds to Me was not as flashy, but she too won her career debut and was flattered when the filly she beat on Oct. 5 returned to win her maiden here Thursday. Home Run Hitter has won both of her starts in Maryland by open lengths and may like the added furlong of the Eliza. Jodys Deelite was third in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies last out, but has not been finishing strongly, while the final two, Anyplace Anytime and Nault, both beat lesser in recent easy wins.

Smile just right for Man o' Rhythm

Conditions are ideal for Man o' Rhythm in Sunday's $100,000 Smile Handicap. In his last two starts, both over about five furlongs on turf, Man o' Rhythm finished second in an allowance race and won the minor Taylor's Special Sakes here on Oct. 6.

In the Smile Handicap, he stretches out to 5 1/2 furlongs on turf and faces nine others.

Trainer Ron Goodridge is not concerned about Man o' Rhythm if the Smile Handicap is taken off the turf and run on the main track.

"Either way it goes on Sunday, and I'm sure they'll try to run it on the grass, we're going to run," he said.

Racing for Grace Turnbow, the 5-year-old Man o' Rhythm has improved since he was tried in turf sprints in late summer.

"Even at his age he seems like he's filling out a little," Goodridge said. "I wasn't wild about going long, but he's been able to go on the turf sprinting."

Man o' Rhythm is likely to chase the pace. The competition includes Bop, a three-time stakes winner this year; Mighty Beau, who has placed in two stakes this fall; and Red Lightning, the winner of the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash.

The speedy Bop won stakes earlier this year at Colonial Downs, Penn National, and The Meadowlands.

Red Lightning is a closer. Trained by Jeffrey Thronbury, he drew the outside in the field of 10.

Opponents like Red Lightning will give Man o' Rhythm a tough test.

"We know this is a jump up for him," Goodrige said. "I imagine there will be a fair amount of speed. He's gotten to a point where he can relax on the lead. He seems like he doesn't have to be in a big hurry."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen