09/11/2003 11:00PM

Naraingang to win? It's hard to say


CHICAGO - What is going on here?

Arlington has carded overnight stakes races in the $50,000 range all meet. Suddenly, they are attracting fields worthy of much higher-level races. A day after the $45,000 Smart Deb was to go with a surprisingly strong group, Sunday's Golden Pheasant, for older horses at a mile on turf, brings out an even more powerful lineup.

Bettors should love this race. Twelve horses were entered, and a strong case could be made for at least five or six of them. But start with Naraingang. Or, if you like, first start by pronouncing his name. It may be worth getting right, because trainer Ken McPeek thinks people are going to be hearing about him.

"This is a very, very nice horse," McPeek said Friday from the Keeneland sales.

McPeek began traveling to South America to buy racehorses last year, and Naraingang, a Brazilian-bred, was one of his first purchases. Brazilian racing isn't the best in South America, but Naraingang may have been one of the best grass horses in Brazil. In 2002, he won five in a row, including the Group 1 Presidente da Republica, which boasted a $42,800 purse, big money in Brazilian racing.

After a long period of acclimating to the Northern Hemisphere, Naraingang may be starting a roll in this country. He closed from sixth at the stretch call to finish third, beaten a neck, in an open Saratoga turf allowance Aug. 30. Naraingang finished right with Statement and Request for Parole, stakes-quality grass horses, and may be set to move forward.

"We were concerned about how far he wanted to go, but a mile is perfect with him," McPeek said.

It's also good for Wudantunoit, who comes off a game neck win in an Ellis Park turf sprint on Aug. 9. Sprints are fine for this gelding, who is owned by Stonecrest Farm and trained by Murray Johnson, but a mile may be even better. On June 18 at Lone Star, in his last turf mile, Wudantunoit won by 5 1/2 lengths over the good horse Skate Away. Sunday, he should get an ideal trip on the lead or pressing the other possible speed horse, Sweet Band.

The contender list goes on. Give a reasonable chance to Holy Conflict, Ya Lajwaad, and Al's Dearly Bred, who is marooned out in post 12. Rain is in the forecast, and a move to dirt - besides gutting a fine race - could open the door for Take Me Up or Mercenary.