09/25/2002 12:00AM

San Pedro no sure thing


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Trainer Spanky Broussard toyed with the idea of pointing San Pedro to Sunday's Washington Park Handicap, but ultimately he settled on Friday's $42,000 Play Fellow, a one-mile handicap for Illinois-breds at Arlington Park. Just as Broussard wanted, the Play Fellow is a much softer spot - but it's not an easy spot.

Three legitimate threats to San Pedro were entered in the Play Fellow - Saquache, a Washington Park nominee; the red-hot starter allowance horse Ivan Jay Perry; and Chinkapin, a Jerry Hollendorfer claim who comes off a strong win over the talented colt City Fear.

Even so, San Pedro should beat them all if he takes a step forward from a sprint comeback race here Aug. 29. That was San Pedro's first start since April and only his second race since March 3, when he failed to complete the course in the New Orleans Handicap.

San Pedro got time off after a bad loss April 21 in the Ben Ali at Keeneland not because of a specific injury, Broussard said, but to let San Pedro recover from the wear and tear of a strong winter campaign. A 4-year-old owned by Richard Rudolph, San Pedro had scored the best win of his career Dec. 29 at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Handicap, and later in the meet was a closing fourth behind Valhol and Parade Leader in the Whirlaway Handicap.

His comeback in a high-end allowance race at six furlongs was encouraging. A natural middle-distance horse, San Pedro needs a contested pace to beat quality sprinters at their game, and he did not get that the last time he ran. Wide coming off the turn, San Pedro was bumped around but made a solid run and finished fourth, beaten less than two lengths by the good sprinter Chindi.

The one-turn mile of the Play Fellow is more to San Pedro's liking. He won a handicap in open company at this trip here last season.

Saquache enters the Play Fellow in peak form, having lost to the talented Rock Slide by a head bob in a nine-furlong allowance here Sept. 7. Saquache's previous start also was good, a fourth behind Generous Rosi and McMahon on Aug. 3. Saquache, however, has been racing around two turns all year and must adapt to a faster pace Friday.

Ivan Jay Perry lost by a nose to the swift There's Zealous the last time he raced on dirt and has not been beaten even five lengths in his last 10 starts.

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