05/27/2009 11:00PM

Choragus, Sly Storm go head to head


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Kentucky-based trainer Ian Wilkes has a horse for the Fit for a Queen Stakes on Saturday at Arlington, a 4-year-old filly named Nursery Rhyme. But it is an ex-Wilkes filly who is one of two main contenders in the Fit for a Queen. Choragus wintered in Florida with Wilkes and came north to Kentucky with his barn in the spring, but after finishing second April 18 in the $250,000 Sugar Maple at Charles Town, she rejoined trainer Chris Block here at Arlington.

"The plan was always to send her to Ian for the winter and then bring her back here to Arlington for the summer," Block said Thursday morning. "She's doing good."

The Wilkes-trained Nursery Rhyme is one of four fillies in the 6 1/2-furlong Fit for a Queen who, on paper, are battling for the show spot behind Choragus and Sly Storm. Choragus has never finished worse than third and has won 3 of her 6 starts, while Sly Storm has won 5 of 8 starts with earnings of more than $200,000.

Choragus debuted with a sharp victory more than a year ago sprinting on Hawthorne dirt but proved equally adept on Polytrack winning her next start at Arlington just as easily. She has a first and two seconds while facing decent opposition in three starts this year, but faces a challenge running down Sly Storm at a distance perhaps a touch shorter than her best and with Sly Storm the potential controlling speed of the race.

Sly Storm returned from a winter break with a somewhat disappointing fifth of seven in a Keeneland allowance race last month, but that was an aberration in an otherwise fine career.

"It was off a layoff, and I think Keeneland kind of became rail-speed favoring, and she was four wide," trainer Tom Proctor said. "It might have been a better race than it looked like."

Sly Storm won on turf, dirt, and Polytrack during 2008, scoring from on the pace and just off of it. Saturday, she has the outside post in a short field, and Proctor said he has no problem if Sly Storm and jockey Junior Alvarado wind up on the lead.

"Actually, I always like being in front," Proctor said.

Both fillies are working smartly for the Fit for a Queen. Choragus posted a bullet five-furlong drill in 59 seconds on May 18, while Sly Storm went even faster last Saturday, going a bullet five furlongs in 58 seconds. The fast morning work behind them, Choragus and Sly Storm now can slug it out Saturday afternoon.