08/06/2002 12:00AM

Kiss the Devil is in sharp form


CHICAGO - Trainer Dave Vance knew a year ago that Kiss the Devil was a long-term project. Yes, the filly could run, but she also was immature, growthy, and perhaps not the brightest horse in the world.

On July 25 at Arlington you got to see why Kiss the Devil was worth the time and effort. Eleven starts after she had cleared her first allowance condition, Kiss the Devil finally won again.

But she didn't just win. She aired, cruising away from eight rivals at the top of the stretch for a six-length victory, running the last of nine furlongs in less than 12 seconds.

It looked like a stakes-class performance, and Kiss the Devil can show she belongs back in stakes races when she gets another shot with allowance horses Thursday at Arlington. She faces eight other fillies and mares in a third-level allowance race at about nine furlongs on the turf.

Kiss the Devil, a 4-year-old Kris S. filly owned by Carl Pollard, won two of her first four starts and was second to Snow Dance here in the Grade 3 Pucker Up last summer. But she wound up last season in poor form and lost her first three races this year before the recent breakthrough.

Said Vance, "She had most of the winter off, and then we got a little ambitious with her," when Kiss the Devil was plunked into the Grade 3 Mint Julep in her second start this year.

"She does have a lot of talent," Vance said, "but she's one of those hard-headed fillies that sometimes doesn't put it all together in the afternoon. She's just a big, strong mare that wants to do things her own way."

The field she faces Thursday is modest for the level, and Kiss the Devil will win right back if she can repeat her last performance on only two weeks of rest.

"This is a little quick," said Vance, "but it's run now or wait another two weeks."

A month ago, Cozy and Dear Lou Lou would have looked like Kiss the Devil's main competition, but both were unimpressive in a July 19 allowance here, finishing third and fourth. Questions about their form make Dynasharp a horse to consider Thursday.

Dynasharp came back from a year layoff in that July 19 race, and though she was fifth that day she finished just behind Cozy in a start she surely needed to shake off rust.

Dynasharp's 2001 campaign was cut short, but two seasons ago she missed by a nose here at this class level.