05/30/2004 11:00PM

Persuaggle inspires hope

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Trainer Mike Weissman hails from a part of Chicago, the far southwest side, not known for gentility. They have in those parts a noteworthy cheeseburger called the Big Baby. Air traffic to and from Midway airport rumbles overhead. Conversational strategy doesn't include the mincing of words.

Asked if a colt named Persuaggle was the best horse in his barn, Weissman replied: "The best horse? We'll say he's the only horse over there."

Weissman has eight horses stabled at Arlington. He does not speak especially highly of them. But Persuaggle provides a ray of hope. On Wednesday, he runs in the featured seventh race at Arlington, a second-level turf allowance at about 1 1/16 miles restricted to horses bred in Illinois. Chances are, the race will be moved to dirt. More heavy rain pelted Chicagoland on Monday, and this latest spell of wet weather wasn't supposed to clear until Wednesday night.

That's disappointing to Weissman. Persuaggle, a 3-year-old, has plenty of talent. He won 2 of 6 starts last year, and with a better trip, he probably would have won the $118,000 Jim Edgar Futurity last December at Hawthorne. The Futurity marks Persuaggle's only start at two turns, and based on pedigree and the way the horse trains, Weissman feels grass routes are in his future.

"We've wanted to try him on grass," Weissman said. "He's nominated for some stakes on grass this summer, so we've got to see if he can do it."

This might not be the day for a grass experiment, but Persuaggle still can win. In two Hawthorne sprints to start his season, Persuaggle didn't show his best, but at Arlington on May 19 he finished second by a half-length to Mississippi Rain, a horse with plenty of talent.

Weissman already is fretting about another outside post Wednesday for Persuaggle - "I don't know why he always has to draw so wide," he said - but with off-the-turf scratches, Persuaggle and jockey Rene Douglas should be in good shape. If the races stays on turf, there is plenty of time before the first turn to find position.

On turf, Persuaggle's main threats appear to be Explosive Green and Crusader Jo, both of whom should move forward from a common recent turf start at Hawthorne. On dirt, it is strictly Persuaggle's race to lose. It is time for him to step up and put the rest of Weissman's struggling stable on his back.