11/13/2007 1:00AM

Free Fighter yet to hit peak

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Horses rarely start their careers with back-to-back races that look identical, especially the ones that Free Fighter ran in Chicago. Trainer Chris Block is hoping that uncanny consistency will evolve into excellence starting Thursday at Churchill Downs, where Free Fighter will make his third career start in the first of two allowances on a 10-race program.

Free Fighter, a 2-year-old bred and co-owned by Block and other family members, has a pair of running lines in maiden turf routes that almost mirror each other: far back early; exactly four lengths behind turning for home; a sweeping move to take him to a tenuous lead; then first in a close photo, although, in his Sept. 14 debut at Arlington Park, the colt was disqualified for a bumping incident.

Free Fighter earned a 63 Beyer Speed Figure in both races, and although that number surely wouldn't be good enough to win Thursday's eighth race, Block believes the colt has plenty of room for improvement.

"He's still really green, but it looks like he's a work in progress," Block said earlier this week from Chicago. "I'm really optimistic that he can move forward with each start. He certainly has the ability to make the improvement."

Free Fighter is among 11 2-year-olds in the 1o1/16-mile allowance on the turf, though a maximum of 10 will be permitted to run. Caberneigh, already experienced versus winners, looks like a logical favorite despite drawing post 10, while Keeneland maiden winners Nistle's Crunch and Celestial Comet also look like logical players, as does the Todd Pletcher-trained Chitoz, the runner-up in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile two starts back.

One race later, another large field is entered in a $50,000 second-level allowance for fillies and mares at one mile on the main track. Marquee Delivery, the beaten favorite at this same level last out at Keeneland, drew post 3 in a race that drew 14 but will be limited to 12 starters.

Other contenders include Marquise, who exits back-to-back Grade 3 stakes, the Arlington Oaks and Indiana Oaks; Spirited Away, who had a difficult trip from the far outside in her last start at Keeneland; and two fillies stretching out, Over the Edge and Unforgotten.

First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.