07/28/2004 11:00PM

Any of five can step up and shine


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - There is not even a sixth man for the Washington Park Handicap on Saturday at Arlington, but this starting five could go somewhere.

It begins with Olmodavor, fresh off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, and also includes Colonial Colony, who upset the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap last month at Churchill Downs, paying $137.20 to win; Congrats, who is floating just beneath the national graded stakes radar; Eye of the Tiger, who is Grade 1 placed; and The Lady's Groom, who has earned a quarter-million dollars this season.

A Grade 2, $350,000 race at 1 3/16 miles, the Washington Park is, above all, a shipper's race. Congrats was driven here from New York; Eye of the Tiger came from there by plane; The Lady's Groom is in from Delaware Park; Colonial Colony arrived by van Thursday from Kentucky; and Olmodavor has been flown from California.

Olmodavor's presence comes as a surprise. The Gold Cup, widely considered soft for a Grade 1, was run just three weeks ago, and Olmodavor usually requires more time between starts.

"At first I thought this might be a little close," said trainer Richard Mandella. "But we got him down to Del Mar, and he really bounced back."

Olmodavor has spent his entire career in California, which is not necessarily a good thing. Mandella has long wondered if the pace-favoring nature of racing there has suited the horse.

"That's part of the reason I had some interest in this race," Mandella said.

Colonial Colony was the unlikeliest of winners in the Stephen Foster, in which he beat Southern Image by a nose. But his close fourth three weeks later in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap gave Colonial Colony consecutive quality performances.

And trainer Walter Bindner says he is looking for more. "I'm not going to predict anything. That's not me," Bindner said. "I don't think this horse could be doing any better."

Congrats, a 4-year-old, won his first two starts this season, including an impressive victory over Perfect Drift in the Alysheba Handicap at Churchill. But, like last season, Congrats failed to step up when given a chance in a graded stakes: He finished fifth last out in the Brooklyn.

"I don't have an excuse for him," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "Hopefully, he can run better this time."

Eye of the Tiger is here because the Washington Park drew such a short field. He has speed, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says he expects Eye of the Tiger to use it Saturday.

"It's back a little quicker than I normally like, but the horse is doing good," McLaughlin said.