08/09/2007 11:00PM

Bad luck seems to follow Love Handles


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The 4-year-old filly Love Handles was produced by a mare named Hip Huggers, thus gracing her with a less-than-distinguished name for a Thoroughbred racehorse. But if you think that was unlucky, take a look at the summer Love Handles has had.

First, in a $50,000 turf claimer on June 3, she ran smack into a mare named Jennie R., who happened to turn out to be the best female turf horse stabled on the grounds this summer. Love Handles ran well, but was second best on the day. June 29, bumped up in class to a second-level allowance race by trainer Brian Williamson, Love Handles tracked a modest pace, finished strongly, and crossed the wire one length ahead of Lady Lionel - a win that lasted less than 10 minutes. Stewards judged that Love Handles had bothered Lady Lionel going into the first turn, and disqualified her to second. On July 29, Love Handles got into a little scrum on the second turn of another second-level turf allowance race, and this time was beaten a half-length by a solid Todd Pletcher-trained winner, Ready to Talk.

All of which begs the question: What unfortunate event will befall Love Handles in the featured ninth race on Sunday at Arlington?

A bit of luck, and Love Handles lands in the winner's circle Sunday, even though this race - carded for horses who haven't won a turf race other than maiden-claiming, starter-allowance, or statebred - has a solid field.

Start with six-time winners like Stormy Amber and Modjadji, either of whom would be tough if their best form transfers to the lawn. Modjadji won the Isaac Murphy for Illinois-breds at six furlongs on Polytrack earlier this meet, and last year finished second in a two-turn Illinois-bred grass race. Stormy Amber, in from Churchill for trainer Tom Amoss, finished a close second at this class level here June 1, a half-length in front of Now, who is coupled in the wagering Sunday with Love Handles.

Now also has a chance. When she finished behind Stormy Amber on June 1, she might have been prematurely asked for her best run. A more patient ride in the July 7 Lincoln Heritage Stakes got Now less than a length away from victory, and in nine Arlington grass races, Now has been worse than third just once.