07/01/2004 11:00PM

Ballingarry has done it before

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CHICAGO - If you reach deep into a dusty corner of memory, you might recall the 2002 Canadian International, in which a young Irish horse named Ballingarry scored an easy, front-running victory and looked to many like a horse for the Breeders' Cup Turf a month later. But his Breeders' Cup was a dud. Nor did Ballingarry, sold privately and left in the U.S., excel in 2003. He won once in five starts and never made a dent in the top of the North American turf division.

Ninth, fourth, fourth, fourth, and third - those are Ballingarry's finishes since he won the Stars and Stripes Handicap last July 5 at Arlington Park. Now he has returned for another try, with blinkers added and jockey Rene Douglas, his last winning jockey, back aboard. And his trainer is surprisingly confident.

"He's at his best right now," Laura de Seroux said earlier this week. "He's really not struggling at all. He's just kind of a hard-luck story."

will need luck and his best run since last year's race to win another Stars and Stripes on Sunday. Eight other horses were entered in the $200,000, 1 1/2-mile grass race. The competition includes the multiple Grade 2 winner Quest Star; Silverfoot, winner of the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap last month in his stakes debut; and Art Variety, who was disqualified from a Grade 3 win at 12 furlongs last summer.

Ballingarry finished third in the Louisville the last time he raced, but there were positive signs. Ballingarry dropped farther behind the early leaders than ever before, but he made a run and gained several lengths even while getting into trouble in the stretch.

"He's been training like a monster ever since," de Seroux said.

finished seventh in his last start, the Grade 1 Manhattan, but was beaten only four lengths in a solid performance.

"Grade 1 horses are just a little too tough for him," trainer Elliott Walden said.

On the other hand, Silverfoot's ceiling is unknown. A 4-year-old gelding, Silverfoot just started racing late last fall, and since being switched to turf, he has won four of six starts for trainer Dallas Stewart.

Robby Albarado, in to ride Sunday, wedged Silverfoot through a narrow hole in the Louisville, and Silverfoot came through and ran on to a game victory.

has had six strong months, a long fruitful spell for a racehorse, but Stewart sees no sign of regression. "His work two works ago was awesome," he said.