05/22/2008 12:00AM

Much Obliged aims to bounce back


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A guinea is an old English monetary unit, one that was equal to 21 shillings. Shillings no longer exist, nor do guineas for that matter, but the guinea at least lives on as the name of a fowl and of horse races.

Already this spring, Zarkava has won the French 1000 Guineas, Natagora the English 1000 Guineas, and Sunday brings about the annual renewal of the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh. But Saturday at Arlington Park, a new 1000 Guineas hits the market - the American 1000 Guineas.

Forget about all that old English currency. The inaugural running of the American 1000 Guineas is worth $200,000, a fat sum for a new 3-year-old filly grass race and one that has helped lure a field of 10, with horses in from Florida, Kentucky, and Toronto.

The Canadian horse is Much Obliged, and she was scheduled to leave trainer Malcom Pierce's home base at Woodbine on Thursday night. Much Obliged, a Pin Oak Stable homebred, was among the most impressive young horses at the recent Fair Grounds meet, winning a maiden race and an entry-level allowance - both on turf - by a combined 11 lengths. But in her stakes debut, the April 16 Appalachian at Keeneland, Much Obliged finished sixth of 10.

"It was a little confusing," Pierce said. "She didn't get beat all that far, but she didn't have that kick like she did in those two races at Fair Grounds."

But give Much Obliged an excuse. She raced near the back of the field in a slow-paced race at Keeneland, and the leaders ran the final quarter-mile in about 23 seconds flat; to have passed them in the stretch, Much Obliged would have needed to sprout wings.

While Much Obliged will try to rally from off the pace, Dreaming of Liz may be on the lead. Winner of the Arlington-Washington Lassie here last year, Dreaming of Liz bounced back from a string of subpar performances to win an overnight stakes race here May 2. She makes her turf debut Saturday, but that may be a good thing.

"We've been dying to get her on the grass," trainer Wayne Catalano said.

In from Churchill Downs is the Bill Mott-trained filly Scolara, who has earned a stakes start with exacta finishes in 4 of her 5 career races, including a game Keeneland turf allowance win over a good field on April 9. Also worthy of note is Seemingly, a late-running Ian Wilkes-trained filly, and perhaps Three Graces, who won her grass debut by five lengths at Hawthorne.

Hanshin: Spotsgone goes for repeat

Spotsgone is not going to be 81-1 in the Hanshin Cup Handicap this year.

Shockingly, that was his price when he wired the one-mile Polytrack race in 2007, a performance that Spotsgone demonstrated was no fluke. Later last Arlington meet, Spotsgone won the Sea o'Erin Handicap at a mile on turf, and at Oaklawn this winter he captured the Essex Handicap on dirt.

Spotsgone makes his bid for a Hanshin repeat off an eighth-place finish in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Derby Day, but that race was not representative.

"We think it's a throwout," trainer Jinks Fires said. "Down the backside he was wide all the way, and he never really got into the race."

Spotsgone was one of eight horses entered in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hanshin and should be prominent from the start under Fires' brother, Earlie Fires, but Spotsgone, drawn in post 2, may have a pace partner in the front-running, rail-drawn Stonehouse.

Also likely to be forwardly placed is Lovango, whose lone prior synthetic-track start produced a dazzling eight-length overnight stakes win here Aug. 11. Lovango ran well enough in three starts at the Oaklawn meet, but had traffic problems in his two stakes tries, and at six furlongs, all those races were probably shorter than Lovango's ideal trip.

"Seven-eighths to a mile is probably best for him," trainer Hugh Robertson said.

Fort Prado finished fourth behind Spotsgone in the 2007 Hanshin, but probably raced against a track bias.

"Nobody made up much ground that day," said trainer Chris Block, who saw Fort Prado encounter serious trouble when he finished second here May 3.

Steve's Double also has a chance to contend as he returns to Polytrack, the surface on which he won the Grade 3 Perryville last fall.