07/26/2008 12:00AM

Karelian returns sharp in Sea O'Erin


A horse coming off a lengthy layoff was supposed to prevail Saturday in the $150,000 Sea O'Erin Handicap at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill.

But instead of Lewis Michael, the even-money favorite in a field of 10 older horses, the winner was Karelian, who got a perfect stalking trip under jockey James Graham before holding off Yate's Black Cat to win the Sea O'Erin by three-quarters of a length.

Karelian, owned by D. Richard Masson, returned $16.40 after finishing one mile in 1:36.37 over a firm turf course. The 6-year-old Bertrando gelding was making his first start since he won a Saratoga allowance 11 months earlier.

The Sea O'Erin victory extended a highly productive Arlington meet for veteran trainer Rusty Arnold, who on July 12 also won the Arlington Handicap with Stream Cat and the Modesty Handicap with Communique.

Both Karelian and Lewis Michael had great trips from just a few lengths behind Voy Por Uno Mas, the longshot front-runner. Turning for home, both were poised to strike, but only Karelian went on, while Lewis Michael, unraced since the Breeders' Cup last October, faded to fourth.

"I was a little worried about my horse being too aggressive early," said Graham. "But it played to his advantage. He wasn't going to let anybody by him."