10/17/2002 11:00PM

Ioya Forever hoping for switch to main track


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Since they named the race after her sister, it may be worth taking a look at Ioya Forever in Arlington's Sunday feature. The thing is, you will only get to see her if the race is rained off turf and onto dirt.

Dubbed the Ioya Two, the $42,000 overnight handicap is carded for statebred females at 1 1/16 miles on grass. Turf was Ioya Two's specialty, and Ioya Forever may well turn out to be a grass horse herself. But trainer Chris Block entered her for Sunday's race hoping to slip into a field depleted by scratches if the race comes off the turf. Otherwise, Block isn't eager to tackle the older horses Ioya Forever would face in the Ioya Two.

"If it stays on, she'll be back on grass next week against 3-year-olds in the Hatoof Stakes," Block said.

A 3-year-old filly by Louis Quatorze, Ioya Forever has raced only eight times in her career, and it has been only three starts since she made the difficult leap to open company. There are only two Illinois-bred allowance conditions, and at the third allowance level, a horse must jump into open company.

Racing on dirt, Ioya Forever hasn't won since leaving the statebred ranks, but Block likes the way she's progressing.

"She's moved forward quite a bit," he said. "She's certainly finished better the last couple races than when she was winning."

Ioya Forever is not the only horse in this race whose connections are hoping for rain, and race-day scratches could change the shape of the Ioya Two. If Dentons Ruby stays in the race, she has the speed to keep Soccory honest on the lead and set the race up for Ellie's Rose. If not, Soccory, as she did in a neck win over open company here Sept. 6, may dictate slow fractions and have to much left to catch.

Fires on fire

The 55-year-old Earlie Fires, Arlington's all-time leading rider, is in the midst of a late-meet surge here. First, Fires won the Manila Stakes on Oct. 12 with Zydeco Dancer, his 100th Arlington Stakes win. Then, on Thursday, Fires booted home three winners on a nine-race card, two of them for trainer Tom Proctor and owner Leonard Lavin.

And Fires wasn't done. With a typically powerful stretch drive, he got Wild Percussionist up by a head to win Friday's fourth race.

That win gave Fires 28 for the meet, placing him 15th in the standings.