07/27/2002 12:00AM

'Falcon', 'Legend' top big day at AP


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Falcon Flight and trainer Donald Burke should never leave Arlington.

Burke won the second race of his training career when Falcon Flight flew through the final furlong of Saturday's Grade 3, $225,000 Arlington Handicap to beat Kappa King by a neck.

It was Falcon Flight's first win since he took the Stars and Stripes Handicap here last July, Burke's first win as a trainer. Falcon Flight had raced only twice since then and was making his first start since last September.

Burke waited and waited for his horse to come back around, giving Falcon Flight three months on a farm and three months of jogging.

"He's a very good horse, and when you have a very good horse you have to do the right thing with him," Burke said.

As rare as the win was for horse and trainer, it was business as usual for jockey Rene Douglas, who put on yet another turf clinic. Douglas, the runaway leading rider here, has won six graded stakes at the meet.

"Rene fits the horse so well," said Burke, who has only four horses in his stable. "He lets him do what he wants to do."

Morning rain turned the turf course yielding, and the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Handicap was modest, with Catchy Word leading through a half-mile in 49.81 seconds. Douglas said he was unconcerned about the race's pace, and he let Falcon Flight lope along near the back of the pack.

Catchy Word was collared coming into the stretch, with Kappa King the first to engage him. Kappa King went clear in mid-stretch, but Douglas threaded Falcon Flight between horses, ran at the leader on the outside, and wore him down in the final strides.

Kappa King held second by a half-length over the longshot Gretchen's Star. Favored Strut the Stage had no punch when asked to run and finished sixth of 10.

Falcon Flight was scheduled to fly back to California on Sunday morning. Burke said he would consider coming back for the Arlington Million "if he comes out of this race better than he went into it."

England's Legend returns a winner

Rene Douglas scored yet another graded stakes win and England's Legend made a successful return to racing as the pair scored a comfortable victory in the Grade 3 Modesty.

The Modesty was easy for Douglas - trainer Chris Clement did the hard part. Clement had England's Legend ready to fire as she came back from a nine-month layoff. As an easy winner of the Beverly D. here last season, England's Legend clearly was the class of the Modesty - it was merely a question of whether she would return in good form.

An easy early lead helped England's Legend, though her half-mile split of 48.51 seconds was fairly quick over a course labeled yielding. But Douglas had a relaxed hold on his mare and she opened an insurmountable lead when let out a notch turning for home.

Quick Tip made a steady stretch run but could only get within two lengths of the winner. Innit was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third.

England's Legend ($3.40) was timed in 1:55.60 for 1 3/16 miles.

Cowboy Stuff wires Round Table

Saturday's Round Table was reminiscent of a merry-go-round, with the top four finishers running in the same order all the way around the oval. The Iowa-bred colt Cowboy Stuff was first out of the gate and first to the wire, easily beating Pass Rush by two lengths with favored A.P. Five Hundred another four lengths back in third.

Pat Valenzuela rode Cowboy Stuff, his first win at Arlington since 1992.

Trained by Don Von Hemel, who co-owns the colt with Shelley Bates, Cowboy Stuff was timed in 1:48.98 for nine furlongs, earned $60,000 of the $100,000 purse, and paid $10.40 to win.