06/17/2004 12:00AM

Cyclones Cap a return bout for six


ALTOONA, Iowa - The top six finishers from the May 15 John Wayne Stakes here return as part of a field of 12 Iowa-bred colts and geldings in Saturday's $70,000 Cyclones Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

The top five finishers in the John Wayne, run at six furlongs, were separated by one length, with Take Me Up rallying from 12 lengths back at the quarter pole to get up in the final strides for a nose victory.

Take Me Up, the 2003 Iowa-bred older horse of the year, is the defending champ in the 1 1/16-mile Cyclones and will start as the 122-pound highweight, conceding from one to 10 pounds to his 11 rivals.

A 6-year-old gelded son of Take Me Out, Take Me Up has a career record of 10-7-3 from 26 starts and has earnings of $413,863. He is trained by Paul Pearson for owner-breeder River Ridge Ranch.

After winning the John Wayne, Take Me Up finished third against allowance company here going six furlongs May 31. He hopped at the start that day, and a wide trip compromised his chances.

Because he is proven around two turns, Take Me Up has an edge over many of his rivals Saturday. E.T. Baird will be in from Chicago to take over the riding assignment on Take Me Up.

Country Warrior, who is coupled in the wagering with Yoyo Jabo on Saturday, was an unlucky loser in the John Wayne. Country Warrior dueled to the stretch, turned back several challenges through the lane, and appeared on his way to victory when jockey Perry Compton eased up on his mount in the final strides and failed to see Take Me Up rallying on the far outside. The photo revealed Take Me Up as a narrow winner, with Compton standing straight up in the picture.

Country Warrior figures to set the pace Saturday, but he has never hit the board in three starts at the 1 1/16-mile distance. Dick Clark, the meet's leading trainer, has given Compton a return call in the Cyclones, and the pair will start at 121 pounds.

Cowboy Stuff was the 2-5 favorite in the Wayne but weakened in the stretch to finish sixth, beaten 6 1/4 lengths. Don Von Hemel trains Cowboy Stuff, who won this race as a 3-year-old in 2002. Overall, Cowboy Stuff is 11-4-3 from 22 starts and has earnings of $421,280. Terry Thompson has a return call aboard Cowboy Stuff on Saturday at 121 pounds. Cowboy Stuff's chances may have been hurt at the draw, when he received the outside post.