05/22/2008 12:00AM

Lovango back on a surface he relishes


NEW YORK - With Belmont Park and Hollywood Park each saving its biggest Memorial Day weekend stakes for the holiday on Monday, Arlington Park takes center stage Saturday with a stakes tripleheader: the $200,000 American 1000 Guineas, the $150,000 Arlington Classic, and the $100,000 Hanshin Cup. Elsewhere, the $250,000 My Juliet at Philadelphia Park is the richest race in the nation.

Hanshin Cup Handicap

Spotsgone, who earned an eye-catching 107 Beyer Speed Figure when he won this race last year, had excuses when beaten in his last two starts. He was cooked in a bitter speed duel in the Fifth Season Stakes two starts back, and most recently he had a troubled start when in with better in the Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day. That said, there is still no guarantee that Spotsgone will cycle back to his form of early this year, when he earned back-to-back triple-digit Beyer Figures in consecutive victories. Excuses or not, he just might not be as sharp now as he was then. With that thought in mind, Lovango becomes a solid play.

Lovango also had excuses in losing efforts in his last two. The difference is, he ran well, and reasonably fast, despite his trouble, especially in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap last time out. Lovango appeared to have plenty of run in the Count Fleet when blocked behind a wall of horses turning for home, and again in upper stretch. He finished willingly once he finally did get clear to finish a close third. Now, Lovango returns to a surface for which he has a clear affinity - Arlington's Polytrack. In his only start on it, Lovango romped in the Forward Pass Stakes last summer, earning a career-best Beyer of 102.

Louisville Handicap

There was a time when Brass Hat would have trounced a field like this, even on turf. But Brass Hat, now 7, performed in his last two starts as though age might have finally caught up with him. And since grass racing has never really been his game, he will be no bargain as the probable favorite. Age might have also finally taken its measure on the 8-year-old Silverfoot, who has lacked the fire this year that he showed when he won this race in 2006. Instead, Lattice fits the bill as a horse with upside potential.

Lattice is the lightest raced horse in this field with eight career starts, which in this case can be taken as a positive, and he showed the requisite ability to win a race like this when he won the American Derby last summer. Moreover, it's encouraging that in his two starts this year Lattice was able to improve on any Beyer he had previously earned. That includes a narrow defeat most recently in an overnight event at Keeneland, in which Lattice's late kick had to be somewhat compromised by traffic and a very slow early pace.

American 1000 Guineas

In a race that didn't come up quite as tough as it could have, Much Obliged and Scolara are logical win contenders off their good maiden and allowance victories this year. But I'm going with Seemingly, who might be overlooked a bit in the wagering because of her deep-closing style and lower-profile connections.

When she was a close second in her turf debut at Churchill Downs last fall, Seemingly earned a Beyer of 83, which is very close to the figures some of her more fancied opponents have earned recently as more mature horses. After likely needing her first start this year and then going up against the highly regarded Ginger Brew in her second start of the season, Seemingly just missed at Keeneland. Seemingly's cut back in distance from nine furlongs to a mile is a concern, but a good price will mitigate that.