06/29/2004 11:00PM

Silverfoot hitting new heights on turf

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CHICAGO - For $30,000, you could have bought a horse named Silverfoot out of a maiden-claiming race last November at Churchill Downs. Seven months and seven starts later, Silverfoot is a graded stakes winner, with the potential for more. The next phase of his out-of-the-blue career begins Sunday at Arlington, when he runs in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Handicap.

Surprisingly, Silverfoot will be one of the favorites, especially now that Hard Buck, the Ken McPeek-trained turf standout, appears headed to the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth rather than to Arlington. McPeek still has two horses for the Stars and Stripes, a 1 1/2-mile turf race, but neither Art Variety or the less- accomplished Prodigus are as highly regarded as Hard Buck.

Others names expected to be in the entry box when the race is drawn Friday include Ballingarry, who already has shipped in from California, Quest Star, and Prospect Green. In the group one finds no obvious foil to Silverfoot, who made his graded stakes debut in the May 31 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs, and won it.

Silverfoot, a 4-year-old With Approval gelding bred by Stephanie Clark and owned by Clark's Chrysalis Stables, was trained by Lynn Whiting when he made his first start last fall. Dallas Stewart, who took over weeks later, said he has "no clue" why Silverfoot got such a late start to his career, and why it began in a claiming race.

"I looked at the horse, looked at who he was by, and talked to the owner about putting him on grass," Stewart said.

Once there, Silverfoot flourished. He won two straight allowance races at Fair Grounds, and after a close fourth in a third-level allowance race at the Keeneland meet, Silverfoot broke through that condition, too, and went out and won the Louisville. The horse is long and lean, and his strong stretch kick takes some time to wind up, but Silverfoot has proven nimble enough to overcome traffic in his last two wins.

"The races are going to get tougher, but he has a strong desire to find the wire," Stewart said. "This is going to be a big step for him. If he does good here, hopefully he'll step up to the Sword Dancer."

That is a Grade 1 turf race at Saratoga. And that is the kind of horse Silverfoot might be on the way to becoming.

Cal shippers head Arlington Classic

The Saturday stakes here is the $200,000 Arlington Classic, and a field of eight 3-year-old grass horses was entered for that race Wednesday. Chief among them are the California shippers Toasted and Street Theatre. These two finished second and third in the Will Rogers on May 22 at Hollywood Park, with Toasted coming out a length in front. The rest of the field, from inside to out, is Old Deuteronomy, Cool Conductor, Exploited Storm, Caiman, Up Anchor, and Count on the Tuna.

Anel de Bamba makes U.S. debut

The long tones you heard after dialing trainer Ken McPeek's cell phone this week offered the clue: McPeek had left the country again, on yet another Brazilian horse-shopping expedition.

A McPeek find from a previous trip makes his United States debut in the featured sixth race here Friday. The horse's name is Anel de Bamba, and on form, he looks mercurial. Anel de Bamba has won races by six, 10, and 11 1/2 lengths, but in the middle of those blowouts was a ninth-place finish. Perhaps that was the competition. Anel de Bamba's poor performance came in the only Group 1 start of his career, though he did score a blowout victory in a Group 3 run over a sloppy track at the Taruma course.

For winning four of seven lifetime starts, and finishing second in two others, Anel de Bamba has earned a whopping $10,753. He can bank almost as much by finishing second in Friday's six-furlong race, a third-level allowance with a $62,500 claiming option.

Opposing him are horses with less exotic form. Smooth as Silver has started five times at Arlington. The last two produced second-place finishes at this class level. King Cielo comes off a $50,000 claiming win, while Battle Tank can do better than his last-out comeback flop in the mud.

* Cruz Contreras, who lost his apprentice weight allowance over the weekend, begins serving a five-day suspension Thursday. The penalty stems from a stakes race on Saturday, in which the filly Ms. Lydonia swerved in the stretch and was disqualified from second to fourth.