05/25/2005 11:00PM

Crafty Shaw should relish mile trip

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The first time Crafty Shaw raced one mile on dirt - and this dates back more than four years - he won by almost 10 lengths. He also won his third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth tries going a flat mile. That last one came in the Hanshin Handicap last summer at Arlington Park, and Crafty Shaw, back for still another season at age 7, will try to repeat in the Hanshin here Saturday.

goes in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hanshin without the benefit of a prep race, and having been out of action since last Oct. 2. After steady campaigns for the better part of five years, it was time for a serious break this past winter. Crafty Shaw spent three months turned out, and was brought slowly back to racing, said trainer Pete Vestal.

"The layoff's not a concern," said the Churchill Downs-based Vestal, who trains Crafty Shaw for owner Charles Cella. "He's an excellent breeze horse. Actually, you have to be careful not to overtrain him. He looks just as good as he did last year - he looks wonderful. Psychologically, he's just as tough to handle in the morning as he always was."

The one person Vestal knows can handle the horse, the veteran Craig Perret, will come to Chicago to ride him Saturday. Perret has ridden just two races in 2005, but has been working Crafty Shaw and has "a knack for riding this horse," Vestal said.

Crafty Shaw turned in a swift mile of 1:35.20 in last year's Hanshin, clearly relishing the one-turn configuration at Arlington, but this time he breaks from the difficult rail post. There are seven horses drawn outside Crafty Shaw, and if any of them clears on the lead, Crafty Shaw and Perret either will have to find a way around or between.

both could show serious speed. Lord of the Game, claimed out of a $10,000 maiden race Dec. 31 in his career debut, won his first five races before finishing a troubled third - beaten by Pollard's Vision and Badge of Silver - last out in the National Jockey Club Handicap. Trained by Tom Tomillo, Lord of the Game always has raced around two turns, but seems well suited to a one-turn mile.

Stormy Impact and Gouldings Green both should race in the first flight of horses; Nkosi Reigns will be slightly farther behind, while Missme and Home of Stars are closers hoping for a pace meltdown.