05/04/2010 12:00AM

Good in 2009, but dull lately


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - If the featured sixth race Thursday at Arlington Park were being contested last summer, Coragil Cat and Gran Estreno might look tough, but who knows if these two are capable of reprising their Arlington form of a year ago.

Four others join Coragil Cat and Gran Estreno in Thursday's sixth, a one-turn mile open to third-level allowance runners and $80,000 claimers.

Gran Estreno's 2009 Arlington meet was sensational: He won all five of his starts, and after being claimed for $20,000 early in the meet, Gran Estreno got good enough to win the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap in September. Since then, Gran Estreno has lost five in a row, most recently finishing last of nine in a third-level turf allowance March 13 at Fair Grounds. Maybe a return to Arlington's Polytrack will wake him up.

Coragil Cat won an Arlington overnight stakes at one mile in fine fashion about this time last year. But Coragil Cat has lost six in a row, and had a truly forgettable Fair Grounds meet.

Crested won a seven-furlong Polytrack race over slightly lesser competition at Keeneland last month, but he was 31-1 for a reason that day, and may not repeat the performance.

Brothers Nicholas has poor recent form, and probably wants more distance than a one-turn mile, but Gentleman Chester fits as well as anyone. Fourteen of Gentleman Chester's 20 career starts have come on turf, but two of his three wins have come on Polytrack, including one at Arlington. Trainer Ralph Nicks scratched Gentleman Chester from a Churchill Downs race last week in favor of this Arlington spot, but Gentleman Chester will have to work out a trip from the rail, and has not turned in a truly representative performance since July.

Grizzled Robert had a steady 2009, finishing third or better in nine of 10 starts, and ending the season with a third in the Grade 3 Commonwealth on Churchill's turf. Trainer Hugh Robertson said he believes Grizzled Robert prefers turf to synthetic, and also thinks the distance of Thursday's race is on the short side for his horse. Robertson only wants Grizzled Robert to finish well and get started on what he hopes is another productive campaign. But given all the question marks surrounding his rivals, Grizzled Robert might do more damage than that in the Thursday feature.