09/02/2010 3:17PM

Country Flavor can give trainer a boost

Four-Footed Fotos
Country Flavor wins the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup on May 29.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The trainer Greg Geier has sent out a grand total of one winner from 20 starters during the 2010 Arlington Park race meet, with Country Flavor scoring an upset victory in the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup on May 29. Country Flavor has a decent chance to account for Geier’s second Arlington win of the summer when he starts Saturday in a hodgepodge edition of the Washington Park Handicap.

Besides Country Flavor, who has not raced since his Hanshin triumph, the field includes Gran Estreno, last year’s Washington Park winner; Elusive Beat, a Southern California shipper still eligible for a first-level allowance race, but not without a shot Saturday; Coolcullen Times, an Irish import coming from trainer Graham Motion’s home base at the Fair Hill training center; Mad Flatter, a runaway speed horse who was in for a $40,000 claiming tag Aug. 6; the talented but inconsistent Giant Oak; and finally, a 6-year-old mare named Cure for Sale.

The Washington Park, a Grade 3 carded for 1 3/16 miles on Polytrack, was scheduled to offer a $200,000 purse when the 2010 meet began, but fell victim to a round of stakes cuts, and now is worth $150,000. Nevertheless, the race remains part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In series, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic pending entry fees.

The Hanshin marked Country Flavor’s stakes debut.A homebred owned by Chicagoan Jim Tafel, Country Flavor started his career in forgettable fashion, but turned a corner when he was gelded last summer. Since then, he has won 4 of 9 starts while showing a generally improving form pattern. Geier said a licensing snafu prevented Country Flavor from starting in the Cornhusker Handicap earlier in the summer. Instead, Country Flavor will come into the Washington Park on training alone.

“That’s all I could do with him, work him for this,” Geier said. “He’s doing excellent.”

While the Hanshin is a one-turn mile, Saturday’s longer two-turn distance may actually aid Country Flavor’s chances. Rail-drawn, Country Flavor should be in the first flight of stalkers behind Mad Flatter, who set a fast pace on the way to a blowout mile win Aug. 6.

Gran Estreno, third to Country Flavor in the Hanshin, won the 2009 Washington Park by a half-length, his fourth straight victory after being claimed for $20,000 by Feel the Thunder Stable and trainer Mike Stidham. Since then, Gran Estreno has won once in eight starts, and he looks less formidable this year.

Elusive Beat has one career win to his credit, but has run well in all five of his synthetic-track routes, and could surprise. Four-year-olds Coolcullen Times and Giant Oak seek their first win since spring of 2009.Cure for Sale appears to be overmatched.