08/01/2002 12:00AM

Generous Rosi needs a turnaround

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - An August allowance last year at Arlington put Generous Rosi on the path to a Grade 1 placing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But the path Generous Rosi has taken since the Oct. 6 Gold Cup has been a troubled one.

With only an eighth and a fifth in two starts this season, Generous Rosi tries to get back on track Saturday at Arlington when he faces five rivals in the Buckpasser Handicap, a $50,000 overnight stakes at nine furlongs on dirt.

Owned by Flying Column II and trained by Niall O'Callaghan, the 7-year-old Generous Rosi was bred to be a turf horse, but it was dirt racing that brought out his best.

A grade 3 victory at Turfway Park followed his third-level allowance win here, and in a nice bit of management O'Callaghan sent Generous Rosi to Belmont for his placing in a depleted Jockey Club Gold Cup.

But a trip to the Japan Cup in November yielded only a ninth-place finish, and Generous Rosi hasn't yet come back into form.

His comeback race at Fair Grounds in February was mediocre, and he failed to build on that performance when he was fifth in the March 24 Sportsman's Park Breeders' Cup, his last start.

"I gave him some time because he wasn't doing well physically," O'Callaghan said. "He's doing quite well now. He's a very good work horse. When he's good he shows it, and he appears to be acting that way right now."

Generous Rosi's best races have come on the lead, and Robby Albarado figures to let his horse run out of the gate from post 1. McMahon, the race's other speed element, has drawn post 6, and jockey Randy Meier should have the luxury of looking to his left to see what Albarado is up to.

"He ends up on the lead when there's no other speed in the race, but he actually might be a touch better rating," said Michelle Boyce, McMahon's trainer.

McMahon has had a good season, winning a pair of $100,000 stakes races, including a win over Generous Rosi at Sportsman's, and his last two losses came with excuses.

McMahon stumbled at the start of the National Jockey Club Handicap, and most recently finished sixth in the Cornhusker Handicap when, according to Boyce, he spun his wheels over a deep racing surface.

Just Like Jimmy also ranks as a serious contender. Second to good horses in his last two turf starts, Just Like Jimmy won his last dirt start by three lengths.

Saquache, On Your Mark, and Apalachee Special complete the field.

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