09/24/2002 12:00AM

Reno Rumble makes home run


CHICAGO - In this case, the statistics do not lie. The 8-year-old gelding Reno Rumble has started 48 times in his career and won 13 times. And though only 19 of his races have come over the Arlington grass course, Reno Rumble has won over it 10 times. On paper, it seems Reno Rumble runs here like he runs nowhere else, a suspicion his trainer, Chris Block, can confirm.

"There's only one grass course he'll run on, and that's Arlington," Block said. "He's a really intelligent horse. You take him to Keeneland, Churchill, or you take him to Hawthorne, he'll run, but he won't give you 100 percent."

Here, Reno Rumble lays it all on the line, and powerful finishes in his last three starts have netted Reno Rumble two wins and a nose loss. Thursday, in Arlington's featured eighth race, Reno Rumble puts his revitalized form on the line again when he faces seven rivals at about 1 1/16 miles on grass. The race is for fourth-level allowance horses or $75,000 claimers, and since Reno Rumble has been running for the high claiming price, he continues facing just about the same opposition he's been beating throughout the summer.

The strong season seemed unlikely when Reno Rumble began his 2002 campaign with a 22-length loss at Keeneland.

"We knew that was a strong field, but he never got out of a gallop," Block said. "This spring, we were worried he was over the hill and done. But I said, let's wait and judge him at Arlington."

Under Rene Douglas, who rides again Thursday, Reno Rumble has been sticking closer to the pace than he was for much of his career, but the improved tactical speed has not compromised his strong finishes. In his last three races, Reno Rumble has powered through the stretch with long, determined strides, and even racing behind a slow pace has not deterred him.

With Major Omansky and Associate entered here, there should at least be an honest pace, though in a change in tactics Associate raced from behind on Aug. 18. If that strategy is employed again, Major Omansky will be loose on the lead and tough to catch.

A weather-induced switch to dirt would leave this race to Mercenary, still developing at age 4 and a three-time winner on turf. But on the main track, Mercenary was third to Congaree in the Lone Star Park Handicap this spring and a close fifth behind Bonapaw in the Hanshin Cup here.

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