06/24/2008 11:00PM

Decades of teamwork defy aging


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When Magnetic Miss won the Isaac Murphy Handicap last Saturday at Arlington Park, she had 128 years of human racing experience on her side. The jockey-trainer combination of Earlie Fires and Joseph "Spanky" Broussard goes back more than a few months.

Wednesday morning, at his barn office on the Arlington backstretch, Broussard, one of sport's more colorful characters, leaned back in his chair and rifled through recollections. Broussard may come off as crusty, but he has a seemingly photographic memory of horses that ran for him decades ago, and who rode them.

"1970, at Washington Park," Broussard said, referring to the defunct Chicago plant. "Earlie won a race for me on a horse named Ibine Pine."

The first win for the pairing, but definitely not the last: 67-year-old Broussard said he has sent out more than 300 winners who were ridden by the 61-year-old Fires.

"The man knows how to win races," Broussard said, "Earlie Fires can ride with anyone, anywhere."

Fires continues to astound at this meet. His business moribund here the last couple seasons, through last week's racing Fires had 20 victories from only 54 mounts at this Arlington meet, placing him sixth in the standings. Some of the riders around Fires are literally a third of his age, with a fraction of Fires's 6,455 career victories, the ninth-most in racing history.

He seems to get along with Illinois-bred Magnetic Miss quite well. In her last 11 starts, Magnetic Miss is 3 for 6 under Fires and 0 for 5 for other riders. A 4-year-old Artax filly co-owned by Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich, Magnetic Miss won the prep for the Isaac Murphy by more than six lengths, and was home by almost two in Saturday's stakes. The two-race streak coincided with Broussard adding blinkers to Magnetic Miss's equipment.

"That's made all the difference," said Broussard.

Leah's Secret heads Pletcher trio

Barring a dead heat, Todd Pletcher is guaranteed to send out two losers in the $150,000 Chicago Handicap here on Saturday - which is what happens when you start three horses in the same race.

None of the Pletcher trio are coupled for wagering purposes, and all have recent Arlington works, so it seems likely that Featherbed, Mini Sermon, and Leah's Secret all will actually make the gate in the Chicago Cap, a seven-furlong Polytrack race that drew a surprisingly large field of 11 when entries were taken Wednesday.

Among the three Pletchers, Leah's Secret looks best, and she is set for a rematch with Indescribable, who beat her by a head here in the Arlington Matron on May 26. Indescribable won the Matron for trainer Graham Motion, but owner Don Adam subsequently transferred several horses - including Indescribable - to the barn of Bill Mott. Indescribable, who drew the outside post, and gets a jockey change from Jeremy Rose to James Graham, ships in from Mott's Belmont Park string.

Two Kentucky-based horses, lightly raced Tequilas Dayjur and the more seasoned Dhanyata, should add depth to the race.

Lewis Michael ready but waiting

Lewis Michael, one of the better older horses based in Chicago, breezed seven furlongs in 1:28 here on Wednesday morning, finishing strongly in a sign that he's basically all set for his first start since he ran poorly over Monmouth mud in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last fall. One problem there - he has no race in which to run.

"We'd run on the Poly, we'd run on the grass, we'd even run on the dirt," trainer Wayne Catalano said. "We'll look for a race, but the one that's best for me is the flat-mile Sea O'Erin."

Lewis Michael scored a major victory here last summer in the Washington Park Handicap, but that race no longer exists. Catalano said he saw no good options for Lewis Michael in the near term, and may be forced to wait for the Sea O'Erin, a one-mile grass race on July 26.

Meanwhile, Catalano confirmed that 5-year-old Lewis Michael's more famous 4-year-old sister, Dreaming of Anna, will be trained up to the Beverly D. on Aug. 9. "We'll try to bring her in fresh," Catalano said.

Home's the Best a real threat

Home's the Best has more talent than the average Illinois-bred, and she definitely looks good enough to race competitively in the featured ninth race here Friday, but Home's the Best's first foray outside Illinois-bred company comes at a one-turn mile perhaps shorter than her best distance.

"And I don't like the 1 hole either," said trainer Brian Williamson. "It seems like a disadvantage going a mile here."

Home's the Best was one of eight horses entered in a second-level Polytrack allowance race. She has three wins, but her Illinois-bred victories don't count against her in the allowance conditions of this race. Home's the Best won a second-level Illinois-bred allowance on May 26 my almost 12 lengths, but that start came around two turns, and Home's the Best looks more like a true route horse than a miler at this point.

Still, if Slewfoundmoney and Positivelycharming - both win threats - hook up on a quick pace, the race could set up for Home's the Best. Another Illinois-bred, Lil Cora Tee, also appears to have a chance to win.