07/19/2006 12:00AM

Courthouse in unfamiliar role: Favorite


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - has been a lightning rod for boxcar prices, but he might be the favorite in the featured eighth race on Friday at Arlington Park.

Courthouse's most recent start produced a 12th-place finish, but that was the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap, and Courthouse had a right to fade in the stretch after breaking from post 10 and pressing a 45.80-second half-mile, a sizzling fraction for a 1 1/8-mile race. That Courthouse was 80-1 in the Cornhusker came as no surprise; in his last 12 starts, his odds have been in the single digits only three times, and in seven of those races, Courthouse was 18-1 or greater. But long odds haven't meant noncompetitive efforts from this horse; Courthouse has finished second or third in several stakes, and has run competitively in tough allowance races.

"He kind of lives up to the level of competition," said trainer Robert Gorham. "He doesn't run away from lesser horses, but he steps it up and runs against better horses."

On paper, Courthouse is one of those "better horses" in the Friday feature, which was carded for one mile on dirt and drew a surprisingly large field of 11. In fact, the Friday program, beginning with a decent-looking 2-year-old maiden race in the opener, appears to be one of the strongest weekday cards this meet.

Courthouse's price figures to nose downward since Gorham named Mark Guidry to ride. Guidry set a torrid pace this time last year after coming to Arlington after the Churchill meet concluded, and he won with his first Arlington starter of the summer on Wednesday. Guidry and Courthouse should find a decent tracking spot from post 9 in the feature.

Courthouse always has done well in Arlington one-turn miles, and Gorham said his horse was no worse for the Cornhusker flop.

"He came back from it fine," Gorham said.

also deserves a look from bettors, especially at a long price. Camptown King has started only twice this year, finishing far behind Courthouse in an April allowance race at Hawthorne, and eighth here July 1. But that most recent start surely was a prep for this race, and Camptown King showed good ability in one-turn miles here last summer.