05/24/2005 11:00PM

Pass Rush: Past his prime - or primed?

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Benoit & Associates
Pass Rush, 6, comes into Saturday's Hanshin Handicap with more than a half-million dollars in earnings. But he also has not won a race since early January 2003.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Four horses are shipping north from Churchill Downs for the Hanshin Handicap on Saturday at Arlington Park. Crafty Shaw won the race last year; Missme just finished third in the Alysheba at Churchill; Gouldings Green was a sharp winner of a recent allowance race; and then there is Pass Rush, the enigmatic member of the quartet. Pass Rush has earnings of more than a half-million dollars, but hasn't won a race since early January of 2003, and will be dismissed by many as a horse past his prime.

"I hope I get 10-1," said trainer Dave Vance. "Maybe I can bet on him."

Vance is fairly new to Pass Rush, certainly among the best Indiana-bred racehorses ever to hit the track. Pass Rush, 6, is an old hand at racing. But before a start on May 7 at Indiana Downs, the horse might have been getting rusty. A Midwest stakes stalwart in 2002 and 2003, he has had injuries that limited him to only two races last year, both of them lousy. This spring, Vance took over Pass Rush's training from Pat Byrne, who had had the horse his entire career. Vance has no point of reference, trying to guess whether Pass Rush can restore his lost luster, but he sees a horse who is training vigorously and should improve off his comeback race.

"I have no idea how he is now compared to then, but he's doing great," Vance said. "He's had some problems, I know, but he's beat good horses before. He's got that quality."

Vance brought Pass Rush back to the races in a stakes for Indiana-breds, where the horse finished second as the odds-on favorite. Winning would have been fine, but the main idea was to get Pass Rush's season started.

"It's okay," Vance said. "I was looking to blow him out anyway, pointing for the [Hanshin]."

The Hanshin is a one-turn mile, and that is a good trip for Pass Rush. Still, Pass Rush will need a rapid rebound to his best form to contend. Crafty Shaw won the 2004 Hanshin, and though he has not started since Oct. 2, Crafty Shaw has run well after previous layoffs. The rest of the field is Gouldings Green, Home of Stars, Lord of the Game, Nkosi Reigns, and Stormy Impact.

My Trusty Cat to race in Chicago BC

Vance confirmed that My Trusty Cat, who won the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Derby Day, is headed to Arlington for the Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 18.

"That's kind of the plan right now," he said.

My Trusty Cat has developed into one of the better female sprinters in the country, especially at seven furlongs, the distance of the Chicago BC.

"Seven-eighths is probably her best distance," Vance said.

Seek a Star preps for Belmont trip

Seek a Star has three straight impressive victories, most recently in the Grade 3 La Troienne during Derby Week at Churchill. And from the look of her five-furlong workout on Wednesday at Arlington, the filly is holding her form.

Headed for the Grade 1 Acorn next month at Belmont, Seek a Star breezed by herself just after the midmorning renovation break, and with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan up, she was timed in 59.20 seconds. No other horse broke one minute during Wednesday training.

Sally Schu, the Arlington assistant to trainer John Ward, said Seek a Star worked easily enough. A smallish, athletic-looking chestnut filly, Seek a Star bears a striking resemblance to the Grade 1 winner Lady Tak, who, like Seek a Star, is by the sire Mutakddim.

Seek a Star will ship by van, and will be accompanied by the 3-year-old filly For All We Know. For the second straight racing day, For All We Know was scratched from a second-level allowance race. Both times, For All We Know was entered for dirt only in grass races that stayed on turf. Instead, she will prep for the Mother Goose Stakes in the $60,000 Revidere Stakes at Monmouth, Schu said.

Smoke Smoke Smoke to go on the road

Smoke Smoke Smoke, in peak form now with consecutive impressive wins in Chicago, could wind up in New York on June 11, Belmont Day, running in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge. That race is one of the options for Smoke Smoke Smoke, who will almost certainly ship out of town for his next start.

"It's kind of tough to find sprint races for 3-year-olds right now," said his trainer, Hugh Robertson.

Robertson is not the sort of trainer to throw a horse to the wolves. And there is a wolf named Lost in the Fog who could also make an appearance in the Riva Ridge. So, as well as Smoke Smoke Smoke has been doing - and Robertson said he has trained well out of his sharp win here May 13 - he could land in a much softer spot, something like the $60,000 Coronado's Quest at Monmouth, also on June 11.

Drama King might be the one

Ten horses were entered for Friday's featured eighth race, a second-level sprint allowance, and it is hard to say that any one of them can't win. It is the kind of race widely - perhaps far too widely - termed wide-open.

Grand Council missed by a nose at this class level at Hawthorne in his most recent race, and he has a win over the Arlington strip. But Grand Council is 2 for 19, and difficult to trust to win.

So is everybody else.

Grand Council, Kool Kool, Obtuse - there are plenty of pace elements in the race. Maybe Drama King, who closed to win a first-level allowance race April 25 at Hawthorne, will roll home for trainer Frank "Bobby" Springer.