07/16/2004 12:00AM

Arco Iris goes after first stakes win


AUBURN, Wash. - Swingn' Notes won last month's one-mile Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies by a convincing length to remain undefeated in three tries around two turns, but it seems that the issue of divisional leadership has not yet been decided. Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Kent Handicap will introduce two newcomers to the local stakes ranks, and it is conceivable that either or both could go favored over Swingn' Notes.

The first is Arco Iris, whose name means "rainbow" in Spanish. It derives from her dam, Rainbow Writer, who is also the dam of Longacres Mile-winner Edneator. Trainer Jim Penney trained Rainbow Writer, Edneator, and several of Arco Iris's less illustrious siblings, including the current 4-year-old filly Punxsutawney.

"Rainbow Writer was a big, strong route mare, and she was not the nicest horse to handle," recalled Penney. "She passed that trait on to most of her foals, especially Edneator, but she also passed on a lot of talent. Arco Iris is by Basket Weave and she is better to manage than Edneator and Punxutawney, who are by Delineator, but she's not bulletproof by any means. She has had a lot of problems breaking from the gate."

Arco Iris lost all chance when she broke horribly in her 5 1/2-furlong debut here in May, and she did the same thing in her second start, at 6 1/2 furlongs, on June 3. That day, however, she recovered to win by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:16.20. She broke better in her third start on June 20, when she got 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.80 to defeat allowance company by 2 1/4 lengths, but she was back to her old tricks when stretched out to a mile in her last outing against allowance company on July 4.

"She wasn't standing right in the gate and she bobbled coming out of there, so she conceded a few lengths to the field," said Penney.

Nevertheless, Arco Iris recovered to win by more than 4 1/4 lengths over Strong Faith, who got second by a half-length over Time for Magic. Time for Magic had gotten within a length of Swingn' Notes in the Irish Day, but her loss to Arco Iris convinced trainer Richard Wright that she didn't belong in the Kent.

"There are some fillies in there that we can't beat," said Wright. "More than one."

Though obviously pleased that Arco Iris has won three in a row, Penney doesn't feel his filly has yet approached her potential.

"She has to learn to do a few more things right," he said. "I didn't run her as a 2-year-old because she wasn't mentally ready to race, and as a result she is still a green horse. She does have ability and she's getting better, but there is still a lot of room for improvement."

Karis Makaw, the other exciting newcomer in Sunday's line-up, earned her shot at the Kent with just one race. Though Karis Makaw narrowly defeated maiden special weight company in her seasonal debut in April and ran a distant third to allowance rivals in her next outing in May, it was her sensational score over allowance company on June 4 that revealed her stakes potential. On that day Karis Makaw, who had been running on the lead, was taken well off the pace by rider Gary Baze. She responded with a 5 1/2-length win in 1:08.60 for six furlongs, which was good for a Beyer Speed Figure of 90, some 13 points higher than any number her Kent rivals have recorded.

"I felt she was just too, too speedy, so I decided to remove her blinkers and have Gary take her off the pace, just to see what would happen," said trainer Bob Meeking. "Obviously, it worked. Now the question is whether she can do the same thing at 1 1/16 miles. I think her pedigree says she can, but she still has to do it."

Karis Makaw is by dual classic winner Charismatic and is out of the Danzig mare Elhasna, who is a full sister to the outstanding European champion sprinter Dayjur. Despite her impressive pedigree, Karis Makaw sold for just $16,000 at Keeneland's September yearling sale in 2002. Meeking bought her for owner Evelyn Filler.

"She was tiny when I bought her," said Meeking. "She has really filled out and matured, though, and I really think she is really a very nice filly. We'll just have to see if she can relax and get the distance. She is very obedient to what you want her to do, but it's not as easy to get one to relax off the pace when you are going a 47-second half-mile in a route as it is when you are going a 45-second half-mile in a sprint. I think I'll just leave the strategy up to Gary Baze."

Meeking reported that Karis Makaw's unusual name has no particular meaning in any language.

"I think the owner was trying to get some combination of Charismatic and the Makah Indian Tribe, and she spelled both words wrong," he said.