05/10/2008 12:00AM

Meal Penalty rides the rail


Rene Douglas, perennial leading rider at Arlington, guides Meal Penalty to victory in Saturday's Shecky Greene.P

With speed horses holding well early on the Saturday card at Arlington Park, jockey Rene Douglas showed why he has won the riding title every time he has summered here.

Douglas put rail-drawn, heavily favored Meal Penalty into the $53,700 Shecky Greene Stakes as soon as he could, worked hard to hold his position on the fence to avoid having to swing wide to rally, and guided Meal Penalty to a two-length win over Young Joe.

All credit to Douglas for recognizing the path to victory, but as almost always is the case, the rider with the best horse has options unavailable to jockeys on lesser beasts. Meal Penalty ($3) definitely was the best horse in a very modest overnight stakes field reduced to four by the scratches of Georgetown and Proccessor's Turf.

Meal Penalty, trained by Todd Pletcher, might have beaten tougher foes than he faced Saturday when he won a second-level allowance race at Keeneland last month. Saturday, Golden Citizen E K ran the opening quarter-mile in 22.39 seconds, and edged toward the lead as he ran around the far turn. Meal Penalty had his head in front through a half-mile split of 45.07 seconds, shook loose from Young Joe before the eighth pole, and remained clear to the finish, stopping the timer in 1:10.16 for six furlongs on Polytrack. Young Joe finished five lengths clear of third-place Denos Keys, with Golden Citizen E K fading badly to last. Show betting was canceled because of the short field.