09/13/2004 11:00PM

Fires spins his brother; now will he regret it?


CHICAGO - It's one thing for a trainer to get turned down by a jockey. It's quite another if the jockey is the trainer's brother.

Thursday at Arlington Park the jockey commonly known simply as "Brother," Earlie Fires, jumps off , trained by his brother William "Jinks" Fires, to ride a horse named Joyful Ballad.

Jinks will not be holding Earlie's desertion against him. Joyful Ballad is owned by the Glen Hill Farm of Leonard Lavin and trained by Tom Proctor, longtime partners with Earlie Fires.

"Earlie's ridden for Glen Hill for years," Jinks Fires said Tuesday morning. "When they're in there, I usually do get spun."

The question handicappers need to ask is this: Has Earlie gotten off a winner?

Perhaps. The featured fifth race, for third-level allowance horses or $62,500 claimers, drew just six horses, including two from the Becky Maker barn. And that's good for Very Very, who turns in her best efforts when she rallies outside other horses.

Last time, with nowhere else to go, Earlie Fires angled her down to the rail. Very Very finished strongly to get third, but that wasn't her best late kick.

"She wants to come down the center of the track," Jinks Fires said. "She can be difficult."

Many will judge the correct choice for Earlie Fires. Her recent form includes two starts at Del Mar, the last of which was a high-end allowance race with no conditions. But though she raced against better horses, Joyful Ballad couldn't keep up with them, and in three grass races she's yet to finish better than third.

, one of the Maker-trained horses, might be favored, and she too drops in class, starting Thursday for the optional claiming price, but there is something suspect about Blue Sky Baby's form pattern. Maker's other horse, Cherokee's Disco, is the speed of a paceless race, but might not be good enough.

Arsen Annie comes up in class after winning a $50,000 claimer, while Chequered Love is a deep closer in what figures to be a paceless race.

Jinks gives Earlie the credit for figuring out that Very Very prefers to sit back and make a late wide run. But Thursday, it's up to jockey Larry Sterling to make it happen. "Brother" will be trying to beat his brother.