06/24/2002 12:00AM

Farm visits psyche King Cielo


CHICAGO - Trainer Frank Kirby's best months come in the spring, during the meets at Sportsman's and Hawthorne. But with King Cielo, Kirby might have a colt that could do some damage this summer at Arlington.

A winner of his first two starts, King Cielo went more than a year between wins before scoring an explosive win June 1 at Hawthorne. Showing the best speed of his career, King Cielo set a fast pace and finished strongly to record a fast time on a dull racetrack, and his performance was flattered when the horse he defeated, Saucy Performance, returned with a good allowance win at Arlington last week.

On Wednesday, King Cielo steps from the second to the third allowance level, and accordingly must step up another level himself if he is to win again. He faces eight rivals in a well-matched six-furlong sprint, race eight on a nine-race program.

For Kirby, King Cielo's recent win cut through months of frustration. "I had pretty high hopes for him," Kirby said. "He's pretty impressive when he trains."

Kirby said not a much had changed between King Cielo's middling efforts earlier this year and his recent win, but he did do some things differently. "I wanted to get him a little sharper," he said.

And to keep King Cielo from souring in his stall at the racetrack, Kirby shuttled him back and forth between the track and a farm that he owns. "We went back and forth between the track and the farm a little more, and that's worked a little with him," said Kirby.

Though he led all the way winning at six furlongs last time, King Cielo turn out to be a better horse over a distance of ground, Kirby thinks. In Wednesday's race, he and jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. would be well served taking back off what should be a demanding pace.

The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Hobar, the likely favorite, breaks inside King Cielo, and he dueled through a 44.60-second half-mile in his most recent start. To the outside, habitual front-runners Only You and Silver Bid also will be showing their speed.

If the pace gets too hot and King Cielo gets too much of it, the other live closers might be Nasty Tour or Apple Dapple. Nasty Tour had traffic trouble in the stretch run of a June 5 allowance here, but when he finally found room late there was no late punch, and he settled for third. Apple Dapple shows a string of tightly spaced, quick workouts as he returns from a long layoff for the Harvey Vanier barn.

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