05/21/2007 11:00PM

Boss keeps tabs on Regent Spirit

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CHICAGO - It's not just the New York Yankees who have imperious owner George Steinbrenner hovering in their thoughts. Dale Bennett began training a handful of horses for Steinbrenner's Kinsman Farm this past winter at Tampa Bay Downs, and for Bennett, a young trainer who has attracted some attention with a consistently high win percentage, the opportunity is a promising one.

"As long as I don't screw it up," Bennett said, reached by phone Tuesday morning.

Bennett's previous phone call, in fact, had been with the Boss himself, calling to inquire into the state of Regent Spirit, the Kinsman-owned, Bennett-trained entrant in Thursday's featured ninth race at Arlington.

"I said he's been doing as good as at any time since I've had him," Bennett said.

Nick Zito, Kinsman's main trainer, had 4-year-old Regent Spirit through February, when the horse moved to Bennett's Tampa string. He finished a close third of seven behind Bennett's best horse, Prosico, in an overnight handicap race there, and Regent Spirit has blazed through a series of works over Arlington's Polytrack since shipping here in late April.

"He's been very good over this track," said Bennett, "If he gets beat, he just gets outrun."

Regent Spirit was one of 10 entered in the Thursday feature, carded for 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack and written for third-level allowance horses or $50,000 claimers. There are a couple fringe contenders such as Sidcup and Alpha Tejano, but Regent Spirit figures to get his biggest challenge from Like an Eagle.

Like an Eagle was the name Steve Hobby produced when asked before this meet started if he had potential stakes starters. Like an Eagle won two straight on Arlington dirt last summer before finishing fifth to Lawyer Ron in the St. Louis Derby. After a win and a close second in Oaklawn Park allowance races, he returned to stakes company and finished third in the Fifth Season.

Hobby said he has been eager to try Like an Eagle on grass, but Polytrack might be an equally strong option. Like an Eagle worked a very fast five furlongs on May 6, and came back eight days later with another good Polytrack breeze.

Like an Eagle is a closer, and that can't hurt him. While Arlington's synthetic surface generally has played fair at the meet, outside closers appeared to have an edge Sunday after the surface had absorbed significant rainfall for the first time during the meet.