08/13/2004 11:00PM

Royal Groove steps up off three straight wins

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PHOENIX - Royal Groove had showed some ability racing in Texas and at Turf Paradise, but the 5-year-old gelding has blossomed since moving to Yavapai Downs, rattling off three straight wins. On Monday at Yavapai, Royal Groove steps up in class and takes on six others in the featured fourth race, an $8,200 allowance race at 1 1/16 miles.

Royal Groove, trained by Dennis Sowers, won restricted claiming races by five and 5 1/2 lengths in his first two starts here. In his last start, a July 17 starter allowance, he showed his customary speed and drew off to win by more than four lengths.

Miguel Hernandez, up for that race, has the call again on Monday.

Monday's race is certainly a much tougher test for Royal Groove, who breaks from the outside post. Right next door is Henry Higgins, fresh off an allowance win here July 25. In his other two starts at the meet, Henry Higgins finished seventh in the one-mile Les Mackin Handicap and third in an allowance race, also at a mile.

Instantly closed strongly while wide to finish second to Henry Higgins on July 25. Trained by Lyman Rollins, Instantly worked a bullet five furlongs in 58.80 seconds at Yavapai Aug. 10, an indication he retains his edge.

I've Got the Rhythm chased Royal Groove in the July 17 starter allowance, and flattered that form with a rallying win over claimers at Yavapai July 26. His lack of speed leaves him a lot to do in the stretch, but he can pack a late punch.

Captain Speed, trained by George Wern, rattled off two claiming wins here in June, then was no match for Royal Groove and I've Got the Rhythm on July 17. If he bounces back to his best form he can be a factor.