07/15/2008 12:00AM

Lune Rouge needs freer rein


Look up the word "guzzle," and you will find many definitions pertaining to drinking and none to horses. But "guzzle" has taken on a meaning in horse-racing vernacular: When a jockey takes a hard hold of a horse leaving the gate and buries the horse behind the leaders, the horse has been guzzled. And Lune Rouge definitely was guzzled in the Purple Violet Stakes on June 21 at Arlington.

A free-running sort in sprint races, Lune Rouge was stretching out to a one-turn mile in the Purple Violet after winning well in Illinois-bred entry-level allowance competition on May 17. In the Purple Violet, she wound up in a box after being taken back, didn't fire when she finally found room, and finished a disappointing though not disastrous fifth.

In Thursday's featured second race at Arlington, Lune Rouge is dropping in class into an Illinois-bred second-level allowance, returns to a sprint distance, and - hopefully - will be allowed to show a little more speed out of the gate. If everything goes well, homebred Lune Rouge can score her third career win for trainer Joe Kasperski and her owners, the Karp Family Living Trust and Ronald Stone.

Lune Rouge was one of six fillies entered in the 6 1/2-furlong allowance - which earns feature status because Thursday's eight-race card is light on quality - and she is one among four top-tier contenders. Cecilia's Fever was beaten more than two lengths by Lune Rouge back in May, but cleared her entry-level allowance condition next out by more than three, and was beaten a neck at 4-5 racing at this class level June 26. A length behind Cecilia's Fever that day was Appeal With Zeal, who will be making her third start of the meet, and has a chance - based on her 2007 form - to show improvement. And finally, there is Defiant Darling, hapless on dirt in her first four races, but a winner of two straight at this meet after switching to Polytrack.

Noted Professor and Bankruptcy Babe, the other two in the race, aren't as logical, but this Arlington meet, which began as a chalk-fest, has taken a recent turn toward the unpredictable. Favorites were winning at almost 44 percent a few weeks into the season, but that number is now down to 33 percent, and the chalk only went 14 for 50 last week. That 28 percent win rate is scarcely higher than the 24 percent of last week's races won by horses who were at least 10-1, and Friday's 10-race program alone had five winners who paid between $22 and $35.