08/20/2008 12:00AM

Can Strait of Mewsina get up?


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Strait of Mewsina was purchased out of Ireland last year - and sometimes trainer Larry Rivelli wishes he were campaigning the colt on the Emerald Isle.

"If we were in Ireland, I think this horse would've won about five races already," Rivelli said.

The problem for the horse is one of distance, namely the lack of really long distances in American racing. At the first call of the Secretariat Stakes here Aug. 9, Strait of Mewsina trailed pacesetting Tizdejavu by a whopping 17 lengths.

"Story of his life," Rivelli said.

At the finish, he had closed to within about 11 lengths of blowout winner Winchester, and was only four lengths out of second, but even at 1 1/4 miles the Secretariat might have been on the short side for Strait of Mewsina.

"Every time he comes back, he wouldn't blow out a candle," said Rivelli. "I can't get him tired."

All that considered, the nine furlongs of the featured eighth race on Friday at Arlington will be short for Strait of Mewsina, but allowance races even as far as nine furlongs are not so easy to find, and that is why Rivelli brings Strait of Mewsina back from the Secretariat on fairly short rest. Strait of Mewsina will race with blinkers on in hopes that the equipment change will get him into the race sooner. And a solid performance here will land Strait of Mewsina in a race perhaps more to his liking - the 12-furlong Kentucky Cup Turf over the Euro-style Kentucky Downs course next month.

Strait of Mewsina is one of eight horses entered in Friday's eighth race, and the opposing forces include a family affair. Trainer Jim Gulick sends out the coupled entry of 4-year-old Wayoff and 5-year-old Snapphok; both were produced by the mare Sid Louise, and both have the same sort of running style: Lay back and wait for the stretch run.

In fact, there is little in the way of early pace in Friday's eighth, with Glee Club, who has never won a grass race, the most likely to find the front end. The pursuing group should include Greycliff Exchange, who won an entry-level allowance race two races ago and was a close second at this class level last out. If Strait of Mewsina gets started too late once again, Greycliff Exchange could be the one.

Ten entered in Arlington Sprint

The theory often is propounded among horsemen that you don't duck just one horse, and that must be the theory being applied to the Arlington Sprint Handicap. No one has yet come close to beating Mr. Nightlinger in a turf sprint, and Mr. Nightlinger will be heavily favored to win the Arlington Sprint Handicap, but nine others were entered when the race was drawn Wednesday.

The field for the race from the rail out consists of Starticus, Fort Prado, Native Ruler, Prince Woodman, Mighty Rule, Lovango, Dhanyata, Mr. Nightlinger, Base Commander, and John's Road.

The Arlington Sprint is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race, meaning the winner gets an automatic berth into the inaugural $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. That, plus a rich $200,000 purse, has lured horses from all over the place. Starticus ships from Woodbine; Prince Woodman is in from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland; Lovango has been based at Canterbury Park; the filly Dhanyata last worked at Saratoga; Mr. Nightlinger ships from Churchill Downs; and Native Ruler is in from Iowa.

Native Ruler will be the 10th Arlington starter this meet for Prairie Meadows-based Chris Richard, the former Tom Amoss assistant who has gone a long way toward establishing himself as a head trainer. Once based at Arlington, Richard tied for the training title at the Prairie Meadows Thoroughbred meet this summer, and operates a 30-horse string, with half of those animals the property of mega-owner Maggi Moss.

Native Ruler is one of those Moss horses, and has panned out nicely. After being claimed for $25,000 last winter, Native Ruler reeled off four wins in a row this year, including a victory in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint, and he comes off a second-place finish in the Prairie Meadows Sprint. Native Ruler has raced exclusively on dirt this year, but won twice on turf earlier in his career.

"We know it's going to be a tough race, but there aren't a lot of options for him right now," said Richard. "If he gave a good account of himself here, that would open a lot more things up for him."

Cloudy's Knight headed to Woodbine

Even after three disappointing races to start his season, Cloudy's Knight's connections are keeping the faith. Eleven days after a last-place finish in the Arlington Million, Cloudy's Knight was out on the Arlington lawn for a five-furlong grass work Wednesday. He was timed in 1:04.80 while working around the dogs, and will head back to Woodbine for his next start, the $750,000 Northern Dancer.

It was at Woodbine last year that Cloudy's Knight hit his peak, winning the Sky Classic and the Grade 1 Canadian International, but Cloudy's Knight has been seventh, fourth, and seventh in his three races this year, and never really got involved in the Million.

"We don't see anything wrong with him, and he came out of the race really good," trainer Frank Kirby said. "We'll point for the [Northern Dancer] and see if he can come back around."