07/31/2004 12:00AM

Eye of the Tiger wins Washington Park

Benoit & Associates
Eye of the Tiger holds off Olmodavor to win Saturday's Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Kiaran McLaughlin's afterthought was a good thought.

It was a couple weeks ago McLaughlin nominated Eye of the Tiger to the Washington Park Handicap, but only when he found out the race was coming up with a short field did McLaughlin decide to come. Eye of the Tiger was sent by plane from New York this week, and Saturday at Arlington he scored the richest win of his career, beating Olmodavor by a head in the Grade 2, $350,000 .

John McKee, Olmodavor's rider, claimed foul, alleging Eye of the Tiger bothered his horse coming into the stretch. The claim was disallowed, giving the jockey Eddie Razo the biggest win in a career dating back to the early 1980s.

McLaughlin, who saddled Bending Strings to a second-place finish Saturday in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga, typically gives horses more time between starts than Eye of the Tiger got. Eye of the Tiger, the property of John Gunther, had raced July 17 at Belmont, easily winning an allowance race, but the quick turnaround clearly took no toll.

"He's a fighter," Razo said.

The Lady's Groom looked like the Washington Park's speed, but nobody really wanted the lead. Congrats wound up there by default, setting moderate fractions of 24.29 seconds for an opening quarter-mile and 48.54 for a half. Colonial Colony, the 8-5 favorite, slipped through on the inside at the half-mile pole, but jockey Rafael Bejarano pulled back to wait, and the tempo remained even. Congrats quickened on the far turn, and Razo asked Eye of the Tiger to go with him, as Olmodavor moved up from last. The race was wide open with an eighth of a mile left, but Eye of the Tiger edged clear, barely holding clear Olmodavor's game finish.

Eye of the Tiger, who ran one and three-sixteenths miles in 1:56.87, paid $15.60 as the longest shot in a five-horse field. Behind Olmodavor came Congrats, Colonial Colony, and The Lady's Groom.