08/27/2007 11:00PM

'Pirates' fills void for DiVito


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Trainer Jim DiVito might have come into this Arlington Park season harboring hopes of winning the Arlington Sprint Handicap, and even when stable star Coach Jimi Lee went down with an early-summer injury, DiVito wasn't out of bullets.

With Coach Jimi Lee on the sidelines, the 3-year-old Piratesonthelake has become more than an understudy, and after dead-heating with heavily favored In Summation on Saturday in the Arlington Sprint, Piratesonthelake now is a stakes winner.

"That's a fast horse," DiVito said of Piratesonthelake. "He was fast last year. He ran third to a horse called Street Sense, beaten three and a half lengths. I always thought he had a lot of ability. Every time he's sprinted, he's run a great race."

DiVito trains a 28-horse string, and the stable is not bursting with million-dollar babies. Coach Jimi Lee is now 7, and though he has admirably maintained his form, age at some point will begin to catch up.

Piratesonthelake, a modest $25,000 auction purchase by the little-known sire Lake Austin, may be set to fill the void. He has won 5 of his 11 career starts and has finished worse than third only once, that finish coming June 7 at Prairie Meadows in a one-mile stakes race that was farther than Piratesonthelake wants to run. At six furlongs, Piratesonthelake has won 4 of 7 starts, and before his Polytrack dead heat last weekend, he was second to the sharp older horse Indian Chant on dirt in the Prairie Meadows Sprint.

"He's a bona fide stakes horse," DiVito said.

Piratesonthelake, who gave jockey Diego Sanchez his first stakes win, probably is headed to Turfway Park for his next start, the Sept. 29 Kentucky Cup Sprint, which is restricted to 3-year-olds.

Meanwhile, Coach Jimi Lee, who injured a splint bone, has returned to daily galloping, but "has a long way to go" before he'll be ready to race again, DiVito said.

However, another "Coach,", West Coast Coach, starts Saturday in the Arlington-Washington Futurity. Owned, like Coach Jimi Lee, by DiVito and Lee Battaglia, West Coast Coach was a sharp debut winner here July 28, leading all the way in a five-furlong Polytrack race. By Crafty Prospector, basically a sire of sprinters and milers, West Coast Coach has plenty of speed, but may be hard-pressed to stay Saturday's one-mile trip, at least at this stage of his career.

"I'm questionable about that at this point," DiVito said. "He worked a couple of good three-quarters, and I was happy with those. He seems to have a lot of speed, but there's only one way to find out - to run him."

Sebastian County ready for futurity

In Saturday's Arlington-Washington Futurity, Sebastian County will try to follow in the footsteps of his full brother, Cactus Ridge, who won the race in 2003. But if Beyer Speed Figures tell the whole tale, Sebastian County is too slow to be a major factor. For running five furlongs in 59.31 seconds here Julyo14, Sebastian County was given a 56 Beyer. For running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.24 here Aug. 5, his Beyer was a measly 58.

"Well, he's run fast enough to win, and time doesn't mean a thing if he gets the job done," trainer Don Von Hemel said.

And yes, so far Sebastian County has gotten the job done. Despite breaking 10th from the rail in his career debut, he won by a length. And Sebastian County had some trouble, too, when he got up by a neck in that Aug. 5 entry-level allowance race.

"I didn't have him cranked up when he won the maiden race, and he was still coming around training when he won the a-other-than," said Von Hemel, whose son, Donnie, won the 1994 Futurity with Evansville Slew. "That's where he was the way we were bringing him along, slow and easy. I think now we're geared up and ready to go."

Indeed, Sebastian County turned in a bullet five-furlong work here Aug. 24 in 58.80 seconds - faster than the winning time in his maiden race. Country music star Toby Keith's Dream Walkin' Farm bred Sebastian County, and Keith put him in a 2-year-old in training sale this past winter, where Sebastian County failed to meet his $1 million reserve and was bought back.

"He's the most expensive one I've ever had, but that doesn't mean he's the best one I've ever had," Von Hemel said.

* Pavarotti, who won the July 14 Round Table Stakes in his most recent start, breezed a half-mile in 50 seconds on Tuesday morning and will ship to Philadelphia Park to start in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Monday, trainer Todd Pletcher said.