07/01/2005 12:00AM

Make way for Cloudy's Knight

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CHICAGO - The long-distance turf horses in the Stars and Stripes Handicap are getting long in the tooth.

Rochester is 9, Revved Up 7, and Epicentre 6, and the play might be 5-year-old Cloudy's Knight, who only got good last season and has more upside than his aged rivals.

Eight were entered Thursday in the Stars and Stripes, a Grade 3 worth $200,000 and run over 1 1/2 miles. From a handicapping standpoint, Art Variety and Gottabeachboy are the first throwouts, followed by Gwaihir. Swagger Stick would need a career-best race, but isn't hopeless. And then things get trickier.

Epicentre, who was to ship Saturday from Kentucky, runs for trainer Bobby Frankel, but he is a second-flight Frankel horse who has failed to progress much the last two years. Epicentre finished third March 27 in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey, his best start in awhile, but that was with the benefit of a quick pace at which to run.

There is little speed Sunday, and could wind up dictating a pokey pace. Trained by Christophe Clement, Revved Up was Grade 2-placed in 2003, but started just once in 2004 before coming back to form this season. He won the $60,000 Battlefield at Monmouth over 1 1/8 miles last time out, with a final three furlongs in about 35 seconds.

has lost 20 in a row, but looked very impressive in two races this year. He was moved wide and prematurely in the April 29 Elkhorn at Keeneland, finishing third after making the lead, and a month later was a closing second to Silverfoot in the Louisville Breeders' Cup.

"I don't see much change in him from a couple years ago," said trainer Jonathan Sheppard. "His last couple races last fall were disappointing, but maybe we went to the well once too often."

finished sixth in this race last year, but since then there have been changes, including the bit that trainer Frank Kirby uses on Cloudy's Knight. A monster of a horse at 17 hands, Cloudy's Knight stopped pulling and started settling and finishing after Kirby's equipment change.

He finished off 2004 with a career-best effort, a second in the River Cities at Churchill. After a lengthy winter break and a comeback here in a one-mile overnight stakes, Cloudy's Knight won his second start this season, taking a 1 1/4-mile prep for the Stars and Stripes by almost four lengths.