06/24/2009 11:00PM

Kentucky longshot an Illinois favorite


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When Gangbuster won the $100,000 Fort Harrod Stakes in April at Keeneland, he went off at odds of 16-1. Barring bizarre betting patterns, the horse will be an odds-on favorite to win the $50,000 Polar Expedition Stakes on Saturday at Arlington Park.

Gangbuster didn't just win the Fort Harrod, he scored a 10 3/4-length blowout in a race run at a specialist's distance of 1 5/8 miles. A Polytrack marathon? That also describes the Polar Expedition, which is carded for 1 3/4 miles, and should fit Gangbuster perfectly.

Gangbuster was 16-1 in Kentucky because he was coming out of midlevel turf claimers at the Fair Grounds meet, winning the last of his starts there on a three-day turnaround.

"This horse is in a situation where the owner is blue collar, and the horse needs to make money," said trainer Keith Desormeaux. "That's the reason he was in for $30,000 and $35,000. We knew he was better than that."

Desormeaux said he also had been itching to try Gangbuster in longer races - much longer.

"We always knew he needed more distance, and it just was a matter of finally buckling down and taking a shot at something," said Desormeaux. "To see him physically, you know he needs more ground. He's a big, tall, lumbering horse."

Gangbuster now is 2 for 3 on Polytrack, and 2 for 2 in Poly races around more than one turn. He has worked three times for a class drop from the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap on Churchill Downs turf, and should be difficult to beat Saturday.

Only five other horses were entered in the race; Desormeaux said the one he fears is Rumor Has It. Rumor Has It lost his only Polytrack start, but led all the way winning the 1 1/2-mile Kentucky Cup Turf last fall.

"I'm a little afraid of that horse," said Desormeaux. "He can get the lead and get a big heart."

Desormeaux feels that besides Rumor Has It, there is absolutely no pace in the Polar Expedition, and he appears to be right. It will be up to jockey Eddie Perez to decide how best to dole out the front-running Rumor Has It's speed, either opening a big lead and hoping to hold on, or backing up the fractions and letting the others stay within striking range while trying to save something for the stretch.

Either way, Gangbuster should be coming on . . . well, like gangbusters.