05/29/2008 11:00PM

Rolling Sea starting out safe


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Rolling Sea is a fine Illinois-bred racemare, no doubt about that, but she showed in an excellent 2007 campaign that she is much more.

Winning 6 times from 10 starts last season, Rolling Sea brought down two allowance races, two listed stakes, and a pair of Grade 2's to top things off. She capped her season with a gutty victory in the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill Downs, giving her more than $361,000 in 2007 earnings, and more than $573,000 for her career.

Sunday, Rolling Sea gets her 2008 campaign started in the Your Ladyship Stakes at Arlington Park, and she figures to be heavily favored to start the year with her 11th win. The Your Ladyship is a $50,000 overnight stakes carded for seven furlongs on Polytrack and restricted to Illinois-breds. Suffice it to say that none of the other five fillies and mares entered in the race has a mantel crowded with so many shiny trophies.

"It's Illinois-breds, and a good, safe spot to start her back, but obviously not the ultimate goal," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who began breezing Rolling Sea at the Evangeline Downs training center earlier this spring before bringing her into Arlington when the track opened in late April.

While Rolling Sea has won 10 of 19 on dirt, she is just 0-1-0 from 3 starts in synthetic-track races, and could be vulnerable on that account. Her most recent synthetic-track start came in a Grade 1, the Spinster last fall at Keeneland, but it remains to be seen if Rolling Sea can produce her best form on Polytrack.

"This race would help indicate how good a horse you'd want to run her against on a synthetic track," Asmussen said. "We already know she's a pretty good dirt mare."

Modjadji, who was almost certainly a race away from her best when she finished an even fourth in the Governor's Lady, her first race of 2008, could pull a minor upset. Modjadji shows a strong Polytrack work tab during May, and ran well enough on the local synthetic track last year.

Stakes reappears as allowance

Race 9 is listed as an Illinois-bred allowance race, but it really is just a reconstitution of the Zen Stakes, which had been scheduled for Saturday. The Zen was scrapped when only five horses entered, but one more was added to the mix, and the allowance race added to the Sunday program.

It brings out trainer Christine Janks's pair of ace Illinois-bred sprinters, High Expectations and Mighty Rule, as well as one other major contender, Last Gran Standing. Last Gran Standing, a 5-year-old gelding, does not run that often, but he often wins when he runs - 7 for 15 is the exact mark. Historically a pace-presser or a stalker, Last Gan Standing was held up near the back of an allowance race for open company here May 18 before being turned loose at the three-sixteenths pole and winning with a flashy finish.

Last Gran Standing will need a similarly sharp performance to beat Mighty Rule, who is due for better racing luck after three less-than-ideal runs at Hawthorne, and High Expectations, who beat Last Gran Standing by more than a length in the 2007 Zen.

Douglas shrugs off fall

Rene Douglas hit the carpet just after the start of race 3 on Thursday, unceremoniously dumped onto the Polytrack after his mount, Ricigliano, grabbed himself and stumbled badly a few strides into a low-level claimer. Douglas lay on the track for 10 seconds or so, pulled himself up to a sitting position - and was on his mounts the rest of the afternoon.

"It's like any fall - it could have been worse," Douglas said early Friday afternoon. "I landed kind of on my ankle, so what can I say: It hurts to walk, but it won't hurt to ride."

Douglas does have an incentive to stay active, namely the fact that he is riding high again at the Arlington meet. Through Thursday, Douglas had won 32 races from 103 mounts for a winning percentage of 31. Coming into this meet, he had won races at a 10-percent clip in 2008, scoring with 24 of 239 mounts. If Douglas were to keep up this pace, he would ride about 180 winners this Arlington meet, which would top his local high-water mark of 167 in 2002, when he won his second of five Arlington riding titles.

"I still just like to ride and try hard every time. This is like my hometown," said Douglas, a native of Panama. "I feel like Michael Jordan when he was playing for the Bulls. When I get here, that's me, it's my show."