07/31/2007 11:00PM

Meritocracy drops into allowance


Meritocracy proved outclassed this spring in major stakes company, finishing seventh behind Scat Daddy in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and later seventh behind future Blue Grass Stakes winner Dominican in Turfway's Rushaway Stakes.

Freshened for more than four months and dropped into a $30,500 first-level allowance, Friday's ninth race at Arlington Park, this time Meritocracy looms the class of the race. Facing eight rivals, he is expected to start as a short-priced favorite racing a mile over Polytrack.

Although he struggled in stakes earlier this year, there is no disputing Meritocracy's ability. He finished a close second in January at Gulfstream behind Bold Start, a colt that would later finish second in the Grade 2 Hutcheson and third in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby. He also won a maiden race in November at Churchill Downs, defeating Most Distinguished, who won Monday's Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga.

Meritocracy, a 3-year-old son of Grand Slam owned by Peachtree Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, has been breezing at Arlington only since late June, capped by two five-furlong works late last month. Rene Douglas rides the colt, whose only effort over a synthetic surface came in his seventh in the Rushaway on March 24.

Another comebacker, Tactical Weapon, heads the opposition. Unraced since running fifth in the Feb. 26 Mardi Gras stakes at Fair Grounds, he has trained steadily at Arlington in recent months for trainer Ronny Werner, who has won with 16 of his last 59 horses (27 percent) when they returned from layoffs of 61-180 days.

A Tactical Cat colt, Tactical Weapon is untested on Polytrack, but he handled both dirt and turf over the fall and winter. Prior to his three-length defeat in the Mardi Gras stakes, he finished second in a turf allowance Jan.o25 at Fair Grounds, losing by a nose to Mayor Bozarth, a colt that went on to place in a couple stakes, including the Grade 3 Will Rogers Handicap.

* Arlington Million week festivities kick off Monday with Arlington Park hosting a charity softball game - benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation - that pits the Arlington Heights Police Department against a group of Arlington Park jockeys, racing officials, and employees. Ceremonies begin at 5:30 p.m.