07/19/2001 11:00PM

Royal Spy takes on royal Sligo Bay


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The mating of a $2,000 stallion and a mare bred and owned by a doctor from South India produced Royal Spy, who needed five tries to win a maiden race in a sleepy Arkansas spa town. Sligo Bay, who started life in Ireland, carries some of the bluest blood in racing. He campaigned in top-class European races and cost his U.S. owners a pretty penny when he was acquired late last year.

Royal Spy and Sligo Bay collide Sunday in the $250,000 American Derby at Arlington, a 1 3/16-mile, Grade 2 turf race for 3-year-olds. Five others start, but a win by any of them would be a true upset.

The American Derby is the second leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple, which concludes Aug. 18 with the Grade 1 Secretariat. Only Honor Glide, in 1997, won all three turf races and there will be no sweep this year since Baptize, the Arlington Classic winner, won't start Sunday.

Dr. K.K. Jayaraman and his wife, Vilasini, bred and own Royal Spy, who displayed only average ability before breaking out this spring with a seven-length Oaklawn Park maiden win for trainer Cole Norman. Fourth in the Arkansas Derby, Royal Spy found his calling on turf, where he won an allowance race, then dominated Lone Star Park's 3-year-old turf stakes, winning the Diamond USA and the July 3 Grand Prairie Challenge by a combined 16 1/2 lengths.

"He's earned a shot with the big boys," said Norman. "He's still a big kid. He was out there looking at clouds the first time he ran, but he's coming around."

Anthony Lovato rides Royal Spy, who races close to the early pace.

His counterpart on Sligo Bay is Laffit Pincay Jr., whose presence here underscores trainer Beau Greely's serious approach to this race. By the world's top turf sire, Sadler's Wells, Sligo Bay was produced by Angelic Song, a full sister to the great broodmare Glorious Song. Grade 1-placed in a 10-furlong race last season, he did not come cheaply to Columbine Stable, which purchased Sligo Bay late last year.

Sligo Bay has run once in the U.S., winning the May 20 Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park. "At the sixteenth pole I was hoping to be third," Greely said. "Then he came flying. I'd liked him, but I didn't know he was that good."

Greely and Columbine targeted Arlington's 3-year-old turf races long ago. "The main thing is to go for a Grade 1," he said. "He'd be worth a lot of money."