06/15/2005 11:00PM

Now a stalker, Waupaca seeks to go longer


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Waupaca has broadened his horizons. Once a horse that pretty much ran his races one way, on the lead, he recently has developed a new dimension - and it might serve him well as he tries to win beyond 1 1/16 miles for the first time Saturday in the $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park.

Waupaca is one of 11 older horses in the 1 1/8-mile turf race, which also attracted top contenders Crowned King, the 118-pound starting highweight; Major Rhythm, who invades from Arlington Park; and Fullbridled, an allowance winner from Hollywood Park.

, weighted at 117 pounds, has been a front-running warrior most of his career, with the bulk of his nine wins coming on the lead, including three in stakes. But in his last start, on May 7, he stalked the pacesetters and won the $40,000 Connecting Terms, a 1 1/16-mile overnight stakes on turf at Lone Star.

Waupaca raced about 1 1/2 lengths behind the leaders to the stretch, then went on by to win by two lengths under leading rider Cliff Berry.

"He's been relaxing pretty good," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Waupaca for Wayne Sanders. "He's been more of a stalker than a real pace horse the last three or four trips.

"Of course, if a horse settles better, maybe he's got a better chance to run a mile and an eighth."

The Dallas Turf Cup distance appeals to the connections of Crowned King, who is cross-entered in the Ark-La-Tex Handicap at 1 1/16 miles at Louisiana Downs, but will run in the Dallas Turf Cup provided it remains on turf, as expected. Crowned King is a strong closer, and comes into the Dallas Turf Cup following back-to-back stakes wins at shorter distances at Louisiana Downs.

"What makes me like this particular race, it looks like there's going to be a couple of speed horses in there, and that's really going to benefit him," said his trainer, Billy McKeever. "If they go up there on the front end and set some fast fractions, going a mile and an eighth, it's going to help us."

McKeever has given the mount to Luis Quinonez.

Major Rhythm last raced on May 30 at Arlington Park, finishing second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the $42,000 Mister Gus at one-mile on turf.

Earlie Fires rode Major Rhythm that day, and will be aboard again Saturday, when Major Rhythm makes his third start off a layoff for trainer Ed Beam.