08/03/2009 11:00PM

Rare distance adds to challenge in feature

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - You can't get much more "tweener" than 7 1/2 furlongs. Neither a sprint, nor a route, it's a distance that befuddles handicappers to a high degree, perhaps partly explaining why racing secretaries tend not to card them.

Nonetheless, here you go, a 7 1/2-furlong race anchoring an eight-race Thursday program at Arlington Park. A $46,920 classified allowance with a third-level clause and $62,500 claiming option, the Polytrack race presents a dilemma for handicappers trying to decide whether a speed horse or a closer will have an edge.

"We were looking to get horses from both groups," Arlington racing secretary Kevin Greely said.

Secret Kin, stretching out from a five-furlong turf sprint, and Fabulous Babe, a habitual front-runner, are most likely to set the tempo in a field of eight fillies and mares, with maybe Celeritas stalking from a nice position. After that, Comely Grace and Sweet Aptitude figure to be among the next flight, looking for an upfront meltdown to play to their steady runs.

Secret Kin, a 5-year-old Team Block homebred, might be sent away a slight favorite, considering her tactical versatility and overall class. An earner of $286,968, the Sea of Secrets mare has finished in the money in 15 of 20 starts, many of them in statebred stakes.

Comely Grace, a Pin Oak Stable homebred by Thunder Gulch, will be making just her second start over a synthetic surface, having finished a sharp second in her June 26 Polytrack bow for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.

"It seems she liked the Poly well enough," said Von Hemel, who is having a productive summer at Arlington, where he has a sizable string for the first time since 1996. "She's had a little bad luck in not getting a stakes win somewhere, but we're still hoping to get that done sometime this fall, maybe at Prairie Meadows or Remington Park. She's probably a little better on dirt than turf, but yes, her first race on the Poly was fairly encouraging."

First post Thursday is 1 p.m. Central, with the feature, the seventh race, set for 4:11. One other allowance (race 5) and a starter allowance (race 4) also are on tap.