07/02/2003 11:00PM

Ballingarry won't be left behind

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - As he finished the $400,000 Jim Murray Handicap on May 10 at Hollywood Park, Ballingarry could view the churning hindquarters of two horses, Storming Home and Denon. Five others were behind him, and those two ahead might be the best turf distance horses in the United Stakes.

Saturday at Arlington, no such opposition blocks his path to the winner's circle. Ballingarry traveled to Chicago for the Grade 3, $200,000 Stars and Stripes Handicap, a race made to order for him. A case might be made for the wet-turf specialist Dr. Brendler, but envisioning victory for one of the other seven requires a creative leap.

Ballingarry flew here Tuesday from Southern California, and there are several reasons for his presence. First, trainer Laura de Seroux wants Ballingarry running on a turf course unlike those in Southern California, where especially firm ground and tight turns limit his effectiveness. Also, one of Ballingarry's owners, Sidney Port, is a Chicagoan, and he is keen to see Ballingarry run at home. And finally, Ballingarry, an Irish horse, has lost three times since de Seroux took over his training last fall, making him winless since his victory in the Canadian International, his North American debut.

"He needs to come on and get a good confidence-builder right now," de Seroux said. "He should do that here. He's really matured since the Jim Murray."

The Stars and Stripes lacks real pace, and Ballingarry should gallop along near the lead under Rene Douglas.

"Patrick [Valenzuela] complained he didn't get right into the race in the Murray," said de Seroux. "He likes a little more cut in the ground, and I think his feet were stinging him. I think he'll be into the race a lot quicker this time."

Dr. Brendler shipped here from the East Coast on Thursday and enters the Stars and Stripes in the best form of his career. In May, he defeated top grass horse Perfect Soul in the Grade 2 Dixie Handicap, and a month ago he was third to the Bobby Frankel-trained pair of Denon and Requete in the Grade 1 Manhattan. Both races came on soft turf, and Dr. Brendler has yet to deliver such a performance on firm going.

The rest of the field consists of Jack's Own Time, a New York shipper; the 8-year-old warrior Williams News; Private Son and North of Six, recent Arlington allowance winners; Extra Check, third last year in the Secretariat, but off since December; and Scooter Roach and Ivan Jay Perry, a pair of useful Illinois-breds.