03/09/2010 1:00AM

Elusive Rob hits the big time

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Elusive Rob began his career racing under a $3,500 claiming tag at Beulah Park. Three one-sided victories later and Elusive Rob suddenly finds himself on the big stage at Gulfstream Park, where he'll be one of the favorites in Wednesday's $48,000 allowance feature going five furlongs on the grass.

Elusive Rob won his debut by a dozen lengths last fall at Beulah Park, after which he came to south Florida with trainer Steve DiMauro. A homebred son of Elusive Quality owned by Irving Cowan, Elusive Rob easily handled bottom-level conditioned claimers by 3 1/2 lengths in his local debut on Jan. 7 and then stepped up to defeat $5,000 starter-allowance opposition by 5 1/4 lengths four weeks later.

"He had physical problems as a young horse and wasn't supposed to make it to the races at all," DiMauro said. "By luck, he made it that far, was sent to Beulah Park to find a soft spot, and he won easily. I wasn't sure what value to put on him off that race, so I put him in where I thought he could win a race here and he's just gone forward from there."

Elusive Rob has yet to run on grass, although DiMauro figures he'll handle the surface since his dam, Double Cat, was a four-time winner on turf.

"He's bred to like it and has speed, which is usually a pretty good combination on the grass," DiMauro said. "Breaking from the rail, I guess he'll have little choice but to use that speed and try to make the lead."

Elusive Rob's toughest competition figures to come from Leavenworth or Chapel of Love.

Like Elusive Rob, Leavenworth has never run on turf but did win his career debut by 3 1/4 lengths over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface a year ago while earning a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. He has not started since finishing sixth at two turns under high-priced optional claiming conditions last April at Hollywood Park.

Leavenworth is trained by Wayne Catalano and has worked steadily for his return, including a bullet five furlongs in 59.60 seconds from the gate on Feb. 28.

Chapel of Love comes off his best effort yet, finishing third, beaten just more than a length, in his turf debut here last month. He hopped briefly at the start and encountered traffic issues nearing the stretch in that race.