09/01/2001 12:00AM

Arlington: 'Vicki' handles class rise

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Maiden claiming horses swept the top two spots in the $75,000 Top Flight Stakes at Arlington, as Vicki Vallencourt just got up to beat Don't Ruffle Me by a head. Both 2-year-old fillies had started but once before, each winning a $50,000 maiden-claiming race at Arlington.

In fact, Vicki Vallencourt's trainer, Hugh Robertson, came close to waiting for an easier spot with his horse, but chose to tackle a short field lacking a standout. It was a good call.

Racing well off the early pace, Vicki Vallencourt, ridden by Rene Douglas, swept into contention while wide, and gradually wore down Don't Ruffle Me in the final furlong.

Both horses stayed on the outside on a day when the Arlington rail was dead. Early leader Desert Sage, who broke from post 1, and favored Honest Deceiver, who broke from post 2, contested the early pace, and wound up finishing sixth and eighth, respectively. Don't Ruffle Me stalked the early leaders and swept to the lead turning for home, but was unable to contain the winner.

Vicki Vallencourt ($23.20), owned by Ron and Ricki Rishinski, ran six furlongs in 1:11.77 over a fast track. Strong Credentials was the only short-priced horse to hit the board, finishing third, five lengths behind Don't Ruffle Me.

The Top Flight serves as a prep for the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie later this month, but Robertson was hesitant to commit his filly to that race.