08/20/2011 3:52PM

Fairmount Park: River Bear holds home-track advantage in Illinois-bred sprint stakes


Fairmount Park hosts the only two stakes races of its season on Tuesday, a pair of $25,000 six-furlong sprints for Illinois-breds. The Lady Riss, for females, drew only a four-horse field, but there are eight in the Tex’s Zing for males, and that race’s field wouldn’t look out of place in a stakes three times the value.

Three Chicago-based horses are entered in the Tex’s Zing, but the 2-1 morning-line favorite, River Bear, does his day-to-day training at Fairmount. A multiple Illinois-bred sprint-stakes winner of more than a half-million dollars, River Bear has been conditioned most of his career by Rusty Hellman, but Hellman recently gave up training, and River Bear starts Tuesday for Leroy Hellman, Rusty’s father. River Bear most recently finished a distant second at Arlington in the White Oak Handicap on June 25, but the winner of that race, Shrewd Operator, ran out of the screen. At Fairmount, River Bear has made 7 starts and won 5 of them, finishing third in his two local losses.

Big Looie, third behind River Bear in the White Oak, is among the Chicago shippers, but his better recent form has come in races longer than the Tex’s Zing’s six furlongs. The same can be said for Capt. Bullet Bob, another Chicago horse, but Capt. Bullet Bob is sharp enough right now that the shorter distance might not be a concern. Fourth in the White Oak after a flat-footed beginning, Capt. Bullet Bob came back to easily win an open allowance race July 24 at Arlington, and his half-mile work in 47 seconds last Monday was the fastest of 33 works at the distance.

“He worked extremely well,” said trainer Wayne Catalano. “He looks like he’s holding his form.”

Rail-drawn Peters Rock is the sleeper. He’s probably fast enough to grab a clear early lead, and Peter’s Rock won his only previous start on dirt.

Doug Matthews trains Peter’s Rock, and Matthews has a raw 25-percent chance of capturing the Lady Riss, the filly-and-mare stakes, since he has one of the quartet entered in the race. Kathleen L’s form has declined since she hit a career peak this past spring, but she’s an improvement candidate in her second race back from a layoff. The likely favorite, Cruise, beat Kathleen L by a couple lengths in the Governor’s Lady Stakes in March at Hawthorne, but she, too, has not been performing as well recently. Rail-drawn Kel’s Dreamer hasn’t accomplished as much as the top two, but she exits a blowout Fairmount win and hasn’t finished worse than second in four Fairmount starts.