08/23/2006 11:00PM

Local pair resume rivalry in Sprint


CHICAGO - Two of the most accomplished Chicago-based sprinters, Fifteen Rounds and Coach Jimi Lee, haven't met since the summer of 2004. They meet Saturday in the Arlington Park Breeders' Cup Sprint, but that matchup is only part of a deep, potentially compelling edition of the major sprint race of the Arlington meet.

Besides the Chicagoans, there is a formidable Kentucky presence in the $150,000 Arlington Sprint, with Elusive Jazz, Kelly's Landing, Junior College, and Level Playingfield scheduled to ship, and from Louisiana comes Gold Storm, who won this race in 2004. The two others are another sharp local, Alabama Clay, and Rogue Scholar, who looks overmatched.

Fifteen Rounds won the 2005 Arlington Sprint, but after crossing the wire first twice earlier this meet comes into Saturday's race after two losses, the most recent a third-place finish at odds of 1-5 in a July 15 allowance race.

"He'd kind of mentally flattened out," said trainer Christine Janks. "We took him home for 10 days to the [farm], and he just perked right up."

But lately, Janks has been battling a more pressing problem with Fifteen Rounds, who drew the rail and will be ridden by Chris Emigh - a lingering foot abscess.

"We've been fighting that," Janks said. "It's not serious, but if it's bugging him, he can't run his best. Other than that, he's training great."

Coach Jimi Lee, like Fifteen Rounds a 6-year-old, is unbeaten in three races this year, all at Prairie Meadows. In fact, The Coach, the pride of the Jim DiVito barn, hasn't started at Arlington in two years, though he has been breezing bullets over the racetrack of late.

"I'd say he's doing as well now as he ever has," said DiVito.

Coach Jimi Lee has speed but drew post 2, and with pace to his outside it's tough to tell what sort of trip he and jockey Eddie Perez will get.

Elusive Jazz finished second in the 2005 Arlington Sprint, then went on to win the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland before finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He went to the sidelines with bone chips that required surgery in the fall, but came back from the layoff with a striking overnight stakes win Aug. 6 at Arlington, and trainer Bobby Barnett, while aware of the possibility, thinks Elusive Jazz can avoid a bounce.

"You always worry about that, but he came back and worked great," Barnett said.

With post 8, Elusive Jazz drew favorably, as did Kelly's Landing, who has post 6. Kelly's Landing was second behind Lost in the Fog in the June 3 Aristides at Churchill, and had a troubled trip when he finished a close fourth of 13 last out in the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder.

Gold Storm was sidelined for more than a year before winning his comeback race in June, but he finished eighth in the Smile.