07/28/2008 11:00PM

Rotary looks sharp, but is no sure thing


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - If one subscribes to the notion that the highest-class allowance race on a given program must be considered a racetrack's featured event, then race 7 is the Thursday headliner at Arlington Park. But while that nine-horse, second-level Polytrack sprint allowance is decent, race 6, a $50,000 turf claimer, packs a stronger punch, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Thursday's sixth, carded for about one mile on turf, drew 11 entries for grass, with a 12th horse, Iosilver, to start only if the race gets moved to the main track. Rotary figures to be the favorite if the races stays on grass, and why not? All he has done this meet is go undefeated in three starts, winning a pair of turf races at this $50,000 claiming level and most recently capturing an optional claiming-allowance race in which Rotary ran for a $62,500 claiming price. Aptly managed by trainer Don Von Hemel, Rotary has won 4 of 6 stars this season while adding about $71,000 to a bankroll that began the year at about $150,000.

But all good things must come to an end, and Rotary could easily run out of luck this time, or regress after three top efforts. Alternatives abound. Kentucky Man is taking a minor class drop, and caught wet turf courses in two starts this meet before a little freshening. He could win, as could General Charley, who was nailed on the wire by Rotary in June going 1 1/16 miles, and might be a stronger horse at this one-mile distance.

King of Speed, in from Kentucky after going 4 for 4 at the Lone Star meet for trainer Bret Calhoun, also merits respect, as do Spider Power and the long layoff comebacker Shift in Power. If the turf course is wet, Lord Carmen also gets tossed into the mix.

As for the second-level Polytrack allowance carded for 6 1/2 furlongs, two Kentucky shippers, Magger Bags and School Girl, could be the favorites. School Girl always seems to attract betting action, and has compiled a 2-1-2 record in 5 synthetic-track starts. But the edge goes to Magger Bags, whose lone Polytrack try last October produced a win and a career-best effort.

"She ran third in a turf stake at Churchill, but that might not have been as good as her Poly race," trainer Dallas Stewart conceded.

Seventh on July 12 in a two-turn Ellis Park grass race, Magger Bags is adding blinkers to her racing equipment Thursday "just to try and work on her focus and pick up her head a little," Stewart said.