09/07/2004 11:00PM

Resilient Kirby back on top

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Four Footed Fotos
Bare Necessities, Frank Kirby's most accomplished horse, may be retired.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Frank Kirby had no luck in stakes racing here last week, and he might be losing the most accomplished horse in his barn to retirement, but Kirby came into Wednesday's Arlington races still atop the trainer standings, with just two racing weeks left in the meet.

Through Monday's races, Kirby had 28 wins, two more than Steve Asmussen and five more than Chris Block and Tom Amoss. Asmussen is serving a suspension, and his Arlington string will continue to run in the name of assistant trainer Toby Sheets until Sept. 15, just five days before the end of the meet. That makes Kirby the favorite to win his first Arlington training title since 1974.

"Doing it 30 years apart, I guess that'd be pretty unusual," Kirby said early Wednesday afternoon. "We've got some material left to run, if we can get them in."

Bare Necessities will not be among Kirby's remaining Arlington starters, and after a fifth-place finish Saturday in the , Bare Necessities might have reached the end of her career.

"We're kind of evaluating her right now," Kirby said. "We thought we were heading for the Breeders' Cup, but we might be heading for the breeding shed instead."

Kirby said Bare Necessities had come out of the Matron with "two or three little problems," nothing major, but perhaps enough for her connections to call off her career. Kirby began training Bare Necessities for Iron County Farms earlier this year.

Another Iron County-owned horse, Sharbayan, finished a tough-luck second earlier Saturday in the Rossi Gold, an overnight turf stakes at 1 1/2 miles. Racing several lengths behind an extremely slow pace, Sharbayan still was seventh of eight horses at the race's stretch call, but he came flying to lose by a neck to On the Course, running his final quarter- mile in about 22.60 seconds.

"He could've won by six," said Kirby, still frustrated four days later.

If all goes well, Sharbayan is headed for the Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs. Kirby said he is also considering Cloudy's Knight for that race, and he nominated two other horses to stakes at the all-grass meet.

Graham headed to Kentucky

James Graham, fifth in the Arlington jockey standings in his first summer here, will leave the Chicago circuit at the end of the Arlington meet. Graham said Wednesday that, rather than shift his tack to Hawthorne in late September, he'll ride at the Kentucky Downs meet, go to Keeneland in October, and ride for a couple of weeks at Churchill before heading to New Orleans. Graham had a strong winter last season at Fair Grounds and is focusing on that meet again.

"Most of my business is there," Graham said. "I've got to go where the business is."

Graham, an Irish citizen, has 54 wins and $1.2 million in earnings at Arlington, and he has continued to ride winners after losing his five-pound apprentice allowance last month.

"Everyone told me that was going to be so tough, but I think its been fun," said Graham. "As soon as I get on horseback, I'm happy."

Raving Rocket still on schedule

Raving Rocket finished second as a 1-5 favorite Monday in the Prairie Meadows Freshman Stakes, but trainer Larry Rivelli was satisfied with the effort and said Raving Rocket is still being pointed for the Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 19.

Raving Rocket made his debut here May 31 and won a maiden race by almost 10 lengths, but he was sidelined with a sore shin. Monday's race was his first since his debut.

"I thought he might get a little tired," Rivelli said. "That race was like four works for him."

Turf stars put in works

Several stakes-class turf horses breezed on the Arlington grass Wednesday. Bedanken, pointing for a start in the WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland, went a half-mile in 52.60 seconds, and Sea o'Erin Handicap winner Herculated went a half-mile in 50.80 seconds. Honor and War, who starts here in the John Henry closing weekend, went five furlongs in 1:06. Warleigh, who also could wind up in that race, was timed in 1:06.80. All works were conducted with the dogs up, forcing horses to the far outside paths on the course.

* Jockey Randy Meier will miss the remainder of the Arlington season after breaking his collarbone while riding a mini-bike Tuesday. Meier, a fixture on the circuit, finishes the meet with 22 victories.