07/19/2004 11:00PM

Kirby's success may rub off on Sharbayan

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CHICAGO - The way things are going, Frank Kirby will be king of the world by September.

For Kirby, the longtime Illinois-based horseman, a season's highlight would typically be something like having a big week at the National Jockey Club spring meeting. Illinois-bred maidens and knockaround claiming horses usually stock his barn, and summers at Arlington, where the competition toughens, can get slow and long.

Now it is mid-July, and Kirby is not only on top of the Arlington trainer standings but also sending out stakes horses.

Bare Necessities has placed in a pair of graded stakes - one at Churchill, the other at Monmouth - since Kirby took over her training in late spring. Last Sunday, Stormy Impact, whom Kirby trains, won the $100,000 Omaha Handicap at Horseman's Park. And on Saturday, the Grade 3 winner Sharbayan makes his first start for Kirby in the Grade 2 Arlington Handicap.

It might sound like a dream, but Kirby sounds unaffected. "I've just been graced with owners who've had the confidence to work with some better horses," he said Tuesday afternoon.

Sharbayan, like Bare Necessities, is owned by Iron County Farm, though Jess Miller has a part of Sharbayan. Both were based in California with Wally Dollase until May, when they came to Kirby in Chicago. Sharbayan has worked four times here as he prepares for his first start since Jan. 19, when he finished fifth to Sweet Return in the Grade 2 San Marcos. Sharbayan had finished 2003 in good form, with an overnight handicap win at Arlington, a victory in the Sycamore at Keeneland, and a close fifth in the River Cities at Churchill.

Sharbayan is a 6-year-old Irish-bred by Doyoun whose best distance is at least 1 1/2 miles - a far cry from the statebred sprinters with whom Kirby is more familiar. In the end, a horse is a horse, and Sharbayan, Kirby said, is not a complicated horse to train. His European roots become evident when one compares his habits on dirt and on turf.

"He doesn't do much on the dirt," Kirby said. "On grass, he's a completely different horse."

Grass is the surface of Saturday's Arlington Handicap, and Sharbayan will need a career effort to beat a field likely to include Ballingarry, Grey Beard, King's Drama, Mystery Giver, On the Course, and Rowans Park. The way Kirby is going, Sharbayan has a shot.

Ballingarry, Toasted work out

Arriving at Arlington on Tuesday were likely favorites for two of Saturday's graded stakes races, Ballingarry and Toasted. Both horses won turf stakes here two weekends ago, and Toasted figures to be a narrow choice over Timo in Saturday's American Derby; Ballingarry should be favored in the Arlington Handicap.

The pair worked a half-mile on dirt Monday at trainer Laura de Seroux's San Luis Rey Downs base. Ballingarry was timed in 48.60 seconds, Toasted in 50.20.

"I let them gallop out as freely as they wanted," de Seroux said. "Ballingarry worked the faster of the two. Toasted, he's a switch-on, switch-off horse. He just cruised around there."

Claiming Crown win big for Catalano

Intelligent Male returned to Arlington in good physical condition Sunday, a day after he narrowly won the $150,000 Jewel, the headliner on Canterbury Park's Claiming Crown card.

Wayne Catalano, his trainer, did not know Monday when and where Intelligent Male would next start. But he knew the impact of Saturday's win. Catalano's Arlington meeting has been slow, and Intelligent Male's victory was by far the most important since Catalano started training for Turf Express Inc. this past winter.

In fact, Intelligent Male was one of the first horses that came to Catalano when he set up shop for Turf Express at Mountaineer Park. Purchased privately last February in New York by Turf Express's principal, Mark Cornett, Intelligent Male won a conditioned claimer by four lengths in his first start for Catalano, and he came back to crush an entry-level allowance field in early May.

It was then Cornett and Catalano began thinking about the Claiming Crown, and Catalano started looking for a suitable prep race at Arlington.

"His races had been good, but I was wanting to see what he was all about in his next start," Catalano said. "He never got that next start."

Instead, Intelligent Male went straight to the Jewel, where he overcame post 11 and a wide trip to win a protracted stretch duel.

Pleasant Sands favored in feature

The nominal feature Thursday at Arlington is an entry-level turf allowance for Illinois-breds to be contested at about 1 1/16 miles. Pleasant Sands is the favorite and the horse to beat - if she gets to run. Second in her last start, a race at this class level, Pleasant Sands is stuck on the also-eligible list, and needs a scratch to get into the body of the field.

In her absence, a lightly raced filly named Awesome Deduction might be favored. Awesome Deduction finished a length behind Pleasant Sands in their common last start, and with only four races, just one of them on turf, Awesome Deduction is a horse with upside.