06/27/2001 11:00PM

Indygo Shiner faces local pair in Classic

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Indygo Shiner, who leapt forward in his turf debut to win Churchill's Grade 3 Jefferson Cup, ships in to meet a formidable hometown team led by Rahy's Secret and Fan Club's Mister in the $200,000 Grade 2 Arlington Classic Saturday at Arlington.

For 3-year-olds, the nine-furlong Classic launches the Mid-America Triple, a three-race turf series linked by tradition but not monetary incentive. The series continues July 22 with the American Derby and concludes with the $500,000 Grade 1 Secretariat on Aug. 18.

Saturday's Classic drew a field of eight, but one of the horses entered, Baptize, took ill at Churchill Thursday and is not certain to run. Also entered were Cherokee Kim, a Santa Anita-based shipper with only a maiden win to his credit; Monsieur Cat, a close sixth in the Jefferson Cup; Bahroba, an improving colt who finished second here June 14; and Curlew Flyer, who makes his first start in the United States.

But based on the Jefferson Cup, Indygo Shiner is the horse to beat. Indygo Shiner made an early lead from post 1, set a moderately quick pace, and repelled several challenges on the way to a game neck victory over Strategic Partner.

"We had wanted to try him on turf at some point," said Elliott Walden, who trains Indygo Shiner for Joe Lacombe. Walden said he believes Indygo Shiner will stay the 10 furlongs of the Secretariat and is likely to be pointed for that race.

Rahy's Secret, too, could move on in the Mid-America Triple and "is doing super right now," trainer Steve Hobby said. A Rahy colt owned by Keith Plaisance, Rahy's Secret was the best 3-year-old turf horse at Fair Grounds this winter, when he was trained by Bunky Richards.

Hobby, who trained Rahy's Secret at Arlington last summer before the colt started, got him back this spring and was baffled by his eighth-place finish in the Transylvania at Keeneland, his first start for Hobby. But Hobby thinks he understands Rahy's Secret better now.

"He's a real funny horse," he said. "He's a great stall horse. He'll spend 22 hours a day sleeping." But Rahy's Secret doesn't take his relaxed attitude on the road. "He was going crazy at Keeneland," before the Transylvania, Hobby said. "I had to get him out of there."

When Hobby shipped Rahy's Secret to Minnesota for the Canterbury Breeders' Cup on June 2 - in which he finished second to Fan Club's Mister - he went the day before, but Rahy's Secret still got wound up. In the middle of the night, Hobby had to move the colt to a different stall to calm him.

Rahy's Secret has thrived since settling at Arlington, and with a legitimate pace to chase Saturday, provided by Fan Club's Mister and Indygo Shiner, he could pull a minor upset.

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