08/31/2007 11:00PM

Holiday card focuses on grass


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - For those handicappers grown weary of working through the apparently endless permutations of Polytrack - don't everyone raise their hands at once, now - a respite is around the corner. Arlington Park, taking a Polytrack breather, has put together an almost-all-turf Labor Day program, with Monday's nine-race card highlighted by a pair of overnight turf stakes, the Rossi Gold for males, and the Claire Marine for females. In all, eight of Monday's nine races were carded for turf.

The Rossi Gold, at 1 3/16 miles, drew a field of seven, the most interesting of whom - by about a mile - is Holding Court. Bred in India and campaigned by Indian connections, Holding Court had a long, winding journey around more than half the globe getting from his home base at the racecourse in Bangalore to Arlington, but he has settled in enough to have posted two works over the Arlington Polytrack, and Holding Court seems to have the class to contend in the Rossi Gold. He is a multiple group stakes winner in India, and has raced against some of India's best, such as Mystical, who won races against European stakes horses this past winter in Dubai. Holding Court will remain in the United States after the Rossi Gold, perhaps for a start in the Elkhorn at Keeneland.

His main competition figures to come from Lord Carmen, who won the 2006 Rossi Gold (run over 1 1/2 miles), and Go Between, who finished third in the Arlington Handicap in his most recent outing.

Lord Carmen is the second-best long-distance turf horse in trainer Frank Kirby's barn behind the high-class Cloudy's Knight, and he finished with a flourish to win a high-end grass allowance race here Aug. 16. The turf was soft that day, however, and Lord Carmen gets a boost when the going is wet.

Go Between has turned in a somewhat disappointing season so far, considering he won the Grade 2 Virginia Derby last summer at age 3, but he figures to be a major player at this class level. Come on Jazz also may be set for a good showing.

The Claire Marine, at 1 1/2 miles, drew a field of 11, and should have Almonsoon and Arosa as the top betting choices.

From the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, Almonsoon has only one win this year, and only three in her 13 starts versus six second-place finishes. She was an even fourth when last seen in the July 21 Modesty Handicap, but even a repeat of that performance would put her squarely in the hunt for top honors Monday.

Arosa, who starts for trainer Patrick Biancone, has not won in three starts since being imported from Ireland, but finished second in her first two U.S. starts, and third in her most recent outing, the June 23 Possibly Perfect over the Arlington turf.