07/29/2009 12:00AM

Ciao gets softer spot in optional claimer

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Ciao doesn't have the best overall winning percentage in Friday's ninth race at Arlington Park, one of two third-level allowances on the 10-race card. But that percentage could very well improve soon.

Having started mostly in stakes races in four years of racing, Ciao is 5 for 19, a mark that includes two stakes victories. Yet that record improves to 2 wins and a second from 3 starts when racing strictly in allowances.

Those performances in allowances suggest Ciao is poised for a return to her winning ways in the ninth race, a $34,500 contest with a $62,500 claiming condition at about 1 1/16 miles on the Arlington Park turf.

Although she faces some quality opponents - led by Apple Martini, Cure for Sale, and Touch My Soul - the race represents a sharp class drop for Ciao, who most recently was fifth behind Pure Clan in the Grade 3 Modesty at Arlington on July 11.

Ciao has been installed the 2-1 morning line-favorite in the field of eight, which includes one main-track-only entrant, Home's the Best.

James Graham rides Ciao, a 5-year-old Lear Fan mare trained by Frank Kirby and owned and bred by Iron County Farms.

Apple Martini, a daughter of Giant's Causeway and a full sister to Arlington Classic winner Giant Oak, looms a threat to the favorite. A two-time winner in Illinois-bred company, she has managed to do something Ciao has not - to win on the Arlington Grass course.

She has 1 win in 4 local grass starts, while Ciao is 0-for-6 over the Arlington grass.

Apple Martini rallied to finish a close third against this level of competition in her last start July 10, falling short by a half-length. Eddie Razo rides for trainer Chris Block.

* In the co-featured eighth race, another third-level allowance with a $62,500 claiming condition, Canterbury invader Lovango is the headliner.

Coming off a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, earned in winning the $35,000 Shot of Gold at Canterbury on June 21, Lovango appears the fastest horse in the race, a 7 1/2-furlong race over Polytrack.

Although most of his experience has come on dirt, not synthetic, he did win the Forward Pass Stakes by eight lengths over Arlington's Polytrack two summers ago.

River Bear and Mighty Rule - the first- and second-place finishers, respectively, in the White Oak Handicap for Illinois-breds on June 20 - also merit attention.