06/30/2008 12:00AM

Cloudy's Knight tries again in Stars and Stripes

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - At the time, his loss by inches in the 2007 Stars and Stripes Handicap seemed just like a tough beat for the venerable grass horse Cloudy's Knight, but in retrospect, it seems surprising that Cloudy's Knight was beaten at all. By year's end, Cloudy's Knight had evolved into one of the better 12-furlong horses in North America, capping his campaign with a victory in the Grade 1 Canadian International.

On Friday at Arlington Park, Cloudy's Knight will have a chance to tie up that bit of unfinished business from 2007 when he starts again in the Stars and Stripes, a 1 1/2-mile grass race that's the highlight of July 4th weekend racing in Chicago. Cloudy's Knight was one of nine horses entered in the Stars and Stripes when entries for Friday's card were taken Sunday - and he is one of several elder statesmen in the field.

Cloudy's Knight is an 8-year-old, and the Stars and Stripes also drew 8-year-old Silverfoot, who was fourth in the local prep for the race, finishing behind the 16-year-old exacta combination of Major Rhythm (age 9) and Rumor Has It (age 7).

Also entered were Telling, third in that local prep race; Churchill-based pace factors A. P. Xcellent and Canela; and Borobodur, the only winner in the brief training career of John Gaver III. But most noteworthy of all is Kentucky-based Lattice, who may be favored Friday on the strength of his last-out victory in the Louisville Handicap at Churchill on May 24.

DiVito seeks rebound with juveniles

Trainer Jim DiVito can see a light at the end of the dark tunnel that has been his 2008 season training racehorses.

DiVito closed the curtain on an outstanding 2007, and his luck ran away. A winner of 48 races - including six stakes - from only 214 starters last year, DiVito has managed only 6 wins from 64 runners this year. And things have been darker than that. Coach Jimi Lee, a perennial leading sprinter in the Midwest, has been on an Ocala, Fla., farm for a couple months after falling into decline at Hawthorne this winter and early spring. It was also at Hawthorne over the winter that DiVito suffered an even heavier blow, when his stakes-winning 3-year-old West Coast Coach broke down.

But DiVito mentioned just last week that his 2-year-old crop was showing some promise, and one of them, Executive Coach, delivered a debut win Sunday, capturing an Illinois-bred maiden special weight race despite finding plenty of trouble.

"The horse has looked good to me since Day 1," DiVito said Monday morning.

Like all the "Coach" horses DiVito campaigns, Executive Coach, a son of Flatter, is owned in partnership by DiVito and Lee Battaglia.

DiVito - who said recently that Coach Jimi Lee remains in a holding pattern, enjoying life at the moment - said he has seven 2-year-olds at the track and three more at a farm.

"The next six months could be really good - if nothing happens," DiVito said.

Asmussen gets Arlington winner

Steve Asmussen has opened up a huge lead this year in the national trainer standings, and as of Monday had already scored an astounding 335 victories in 2008. Just as surprising, the Asmussen barn was being shut out at the Arlington meet until Agastache came through with a win on Saturday's card. Agastache, who had been beaten at a short price earlier this meet, won an entry-level allowance race, and through Sunday's racing, the Asmussen barn's Arlington record stood at 1 for 39 - hardly glossy, but off the duck.

Wade moves tack to Ellis Park

Apprentice rider Lyndie Wade has left Arlington to try his luck at Ellis Park, in hopes of making the most of an apprentice weight allowance that expires in November.

Wade, who came to Chicago last fall, rode 26 winners last fall at Hawthorne, and had success there this spring in limited opportunities, going 8 for 53. But Arlington, with its deeper jockey colony, has proven much more difficult, and Wade departs with only 5 wins from 98 mounts.

Wade, a Louisiana native, made his mark here as a promising enough young rider, but got the most attention for a terrible spill last winter at Hawthorne. Knocked unconscious and kept in an induced coma for several days, Wade rehabbed more quickly than anyone initially expected and was back in action only four months after his accident.

* There is no real feature on Wednesday's eight-race program here, and the day's highest-class race is the first, a $50,000 claiming sprint.