06/24/2004 11:00PM

Korbyn Gold in sweet spot

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CHICAGO - Korbyn Gold's form went to shreds over the winter, but he was back to his old self last month at Churchill Downs, and a typical Korbyn Gold-like effort will win Sunday's featured eighth race at Arlington Park.

Sunday's feature, the Native Dancer, is for 3-year-olds at one mile on dirt - and extended one-turn dirt races are what Korbyn Gold is all about. The colt has won at distances as short as 4 1/2 furlongs, and he has run second in a $150,000 stakes race around two turns, but seven furlongs to a mile is ideal for this horse.

And add another mark to his column: the Native Dancer ought to set up for Korbyn Gold, who figures to take up a stalking position under leading rider Rene Douglas. Ahead of him will certainly be Canadian River, who runs half-miles in sprint races in less than 45 seconds. Marley's Revenge, who tried a mile on yielding turf last time out, also has sprint speed, and he should join the fray before the field hits the turn.

Korbyn Gold was a bargain purchase, fetching $4,000 at a Texas yearling sale in the summer of 2002. A man named Elmer Carter had him, but not for long. An easy debut win at Lone Star in the spring of 2003 caught the eye of Steve Asmussen, whose client, Bill Heiligbrodt, laid out $75,000 to buy Korbyn Gold. The deal has worked for both parties. If he can win Sunday, Korbyn Gold will top $200,000 in earnings - not bad for a young horse just below the graded-stakes level.

"He went bad on us over the winter," Asmussen said, reached by phone on Friday. "We were very pleased with his last race. Hopefully, he's back on track now."

That last race was an $80,000 claiming win at Churchill, a spot probably tougher than Sunday's.

Canadian River beat Texas-bred sprinters in his last start, and it is hard to know where he fits in terms of class or distance.

Pure American and Avid Skier do not seem quite good enough, and while the race could set up for deep closer Roll Your Own, he might not be fast enough to take advantage. Marley's Revenge, a listed stakes winner running short, collapsed from heatstroke after his last start: At least you know this horse gives all he has during a race.

Patches to benefit disabled riders

Five veteran Arlington jockeys are spearheading an effort to wear sponsored patches on their riding pants during races here. All the money earned from the sponsorship would go directly to the Disabled Jockey's Endowment, which is administered by the national Jockey's Guild.

The jockeys, Earlie Fires, Jerry LaSala, Randy Meier, Ray Sibille, and Carlos Silva, hope to revive a plan originally hatched in the spring of 2003. During the Triple Crown that year, Sibille explained, jockeys wore Guild patches on their pants in an effort to showcase the potential of such advertising. There was interest from major corporate sponsors, Sibille said, but the plan to direct the proceeds to Disabled Jockey's Endowment disintegrated as individual riders, and some trainers and owners, sought to benefit.

"We're trying to start that original plan again," Sibille said. The Arlington riders hope successful implementation of the plan locally will lead to similar arrangements around the country, as the Guild first envisioned.

The riders have a commitment from one local sponsor, the prominent owner Frank Calabrese. Calabrese owns a successful printing business, and he has pledged to donate $200,000 to the Guild. Riders participating in the program would wear a patch bearing his company's logo.

Arlington Park has agreed to the plan. "As long as it doesn't conflict with out existing sponsors - and that's not a long list - and as long as it's in good taste, we're okay with it," said Arlington's president, Cliff Goodrich.

But some local owners and trainers have protested. "A lot of people are against us," Sibille said. "They don't like Mr. Calabrese. They say they don't want his name on our pants when we ride their horse."

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association currently is canvassing its members to gauge the plan's level of support. Joe Kasperski, president of the horsemen's group, said "there are a whole list of possible objections" to the plan. But Kasperski said a majority of the horsemen's group's members who have responded favor patches if sponsorship money goes to charity.

Individual owners and jockeys opposed to the plan do not have to participate. Sibille said all Arlington riders except Douglas have agreed to wear the patches. Douglas said he disagreed with the allocation of resources within the Guild.

"I think we should use the money for something different," he said.

Sibille said Arlington riders could be wearing patches as early as July 4.