07/09/2008 11:00PM

Cosmonaut shooting for three in a row


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - He won it in 2006, he won it in 2007, and Cosmonaut will be expected to win the Arlington Handicap for the third straight season when he starts as the favorite in the Grade 3, $200,000 grass race here Saturday.

With just six horses, the Arlington Handicap, a 1 1/4-mile Chicago prep for the Arlington Million, drew a shorter field than Saturday's other two turf stakes, the American Derby and the Modesty Handicap. Cosmonaut might wind up the shortest-price favorite of the day - which is not to say he's invulnerable. Cosmonaut was the 3-5 favorite June 14 at Belmont when he went down to a nose defeat in the $78,000 Scottish Monk Stakes.

That said, the Scottish Monk came up a fast mile race, with the leaders going the final quarter-mile in less than 24 seconds.

"I thought it was a good effort," trainer Carlos Martin said.

Martin helped select Cosmonaut for purchase as a yearling and trained the horse for his first seven starts, after which Patrick Biancone - who is serving a one-year suspension - took over and trained 6-year-old Cosmonaut for the bulk of his career. Martin was down as trainer for one start last fall and got Cosmonaut back about four weeks before the Scottish Monk, after the horse wintered with trainer Phil Serpe and finished fourth in the Maker's Mark Mile.

"It took me a little time to get familiar with the horse," Martin said. "He came out of the Keeneland race with a little issue we had to address, and in a perfect world I'd have liked to have another work in him. I think he should improve now."

Cosmonaut led all the way in both his Arlington Handicap wins, and on paper, he appears to be the controlling speed again this year.

"If it's a mile and a quarter and it's a paceless race, I'm not going to tell [Rene] Douglas to take him back," Martin said. "If he gets an easy lead and can control the pace, as long as he's relaxed and doing it easy and gets him in a good rhythm, that's fine with me."

Stream Cat, another former Biancone trainee, makes his first start since October. He was good enough last season to finish a close fourth in the Arlington Million.

"I've had him approximately a month and a half and I don't have any back training to judge how much he needs," trainer Rusty Arnold said. "But I think he's ready."

Corrupt was third last out in the Opening Verse at Churchill but stretches out to 10 furlongs for the first time in his career. He has shown signs of high class.

"He's a big beautiful colt," trainer Neil Howard said. "He seems like a horse that has a lot of constitution and stamina."

Modesty looks wide open

No Dreaming of Anna, no Forever Together, and just one graded stakes winner of any kind, a little known Kentucky horse named Communique: But the Modesty Handicap drew an 11-horse field and looks like the prototypical "good betting race."

Carded for 1 3/16 miles on grass, the Grade 3, $150,000 Modesty does have some chaff, but a decent case could be made for, say, eight different horses. Communique could wind up a mild favorite since she won the Grade 3 Bewitch two races ago and gets the services of Douglas, this meet's leading rider.

Communique is only three starts removed from the entry-level allowance ranks, and she finished fourth of six last out in a Churchill Downs allowance race. But that recent start, which came over 1 1/16 miles, was merely a means to an end, Arnold said.

"Her last race was a prep to get her here," Arnold said. "We didn't change her style to fit the race. She made her run, but she's never won a race at less than a mile and an eighth. We think we're in good shape now."

Barbette won the Possibly Perfect, a local overnight stakes prep for the Modesty, and looked good doing it, but Douglas nevertheless jumps ship for Communique. Barbette has won 2 of her 4 Arlington grass races, and trainer Steve Hobby believes the sweeping course here suits the long-striding mare.

Ballymore Lady finished second last out in the Mint Julep at Churchill, and though she hasn't raced beyond nine furlongs in the United States, she won over 1 1/4 miles two years ago in France.

Kiss With a Twist checked in third behind Ballymore Lady last out, while Lemon Chiffon shipped all the way from California only to land post 11. Quiet Queen is in career-best form, while Ciao is trying to regain 2007 form that would be competitive Saturday after two sub-par races to start her season.