09/04/2003 11:00PM

Hackendiffy freshened for grass debut


CHICAGO - Hackendiffy may have gone a bridge too far this summer. He ran his heart out in the July 5 Ohio Derby, finishing second behind Wild and Wicked and beating Midway Road. It was the last, and perhaps the best, in a three-race skein of "A" races, and it may have been too much for Hackendiffy.

Two weeks later, facing the same kind of Ohio-breds he had trampled for two seasons, Hackendiffy finished a distant sixth.

Trainer Bernie Flint had seen enough. There was a five-week break before Hackendiffy breezed again, and when the colt runs Sunday at Arlington, it will have been more than two months since his last race. A freshened, lively Hackendiffy could do plenty of damage in Arlington's co-featured sixth race, a $45,000 overnight handicap for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on grass.

Hackendiffy was one of seven horses entered in the race, and he is the fastest of them. Hackendiffy is likely to break on top and make a clear early lead under Curt Bourque, and if he handles grass as well as he has run on dirt, and has benefited from his time off, the others may never catch up.

Turf-pedigree analysts should be aware that Hackendiffy is a half-brother to Lendall Ray, a four-time winner on the grass, including the Lamplighter Stakes and the Jersey Derby in 2000.

If Hackendiffy doesn't fire, either Scottago or G P Fleet should win. Scottago was fourth in the Arlington Classic and third in the American Derby over this course, and in neither race did he have any pace at which to run. But once again, there is a lack of pace, and Scottago may not have the luxury of sitting back and making one late run, his preferred style.

G P Fleet, in from Kentucky for the trainer Steve Flint - Bernie's son - easily won an Ellis Park grass stakes in mid-July before finishing sixth of 11 in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga in his last start. Like Scottago, he is a one-run closer best off with a healthy pace in front of him.

The co-featured eighth is another turf race, this one an overnight handicap at 1 1/16 miles for older Illinois-bred horses. The Bret Calhoun-trained entry of G All Day and Smilin' Slew is likely to be favored, but neither horse is a standout. Upset minded players may look at Our Last Novel or - for the truly adventurous - Buster Bailey.