08/20/2007 11:00PM

Snapphok needs pace, and a vowel


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - First, a niggling question: What kind of a name is Snapphok? Second, a more pressing query: Can Snapphok rally in time to win the featured ninth race on Thursday at Arlington?

Jim Gulick, Snapphok's trainer, can at least settle the first issue.

"I think his name was supposed to be Snap Hook, a term used in golf," Gulick said Tuesday. "But I went to enter him, and come to find out he wasn't named. Well, Snap Hook was taken, Snaphook was out."

And so on, and so forth, until Gulick got down to the current spelling - Snapphok.

That settled, handicappers can get into the more important stuff. Snapphok may be mildly favored in a full field of Illinois-bred second-level turf allowance horses, but he has won just 2 of 22 starts, and as a closer lacking any semblance of early speed, he has been disadvantaged time after time by a slow early pace in his races.

"His running style just is not conducive to the tracks and the way they play," Gulick said. "I don't know why, but they've been going so slow in the route races."

A look at Snapphok's running lines this meet backs Gulick up. In his four starts this Arlington summer - three on turf, one on Polytrack - the early leader has run an opening quarter-mile in 25.40 seconds, 24.60, 24.60, and 24.80. Three races ago, in a race under almost these same conditions that Snapphok was favored to win, the six-furlong fraction was a glacial 1:16.20, and that over firm turf.

Another similar race setup, and Snapphok - even with leading rider Rene Douglas holding the reins - is in trouble again. But the last time Snapphok got an honest pace in a Chicago race, last November on the Hawthorne turf, he easily cleared his entry-level Illinois-bred allowance condition.

Snapphok drew post 11 in a full field of 12, but he figures to drop back for position in any case. In worse shape, draw-wise, is Princeton Hills, who landed post 12, a tough spot for a horse with a pressing style like his. Princeton Hills, who missed by a nose in a race like this last out on July 13, either will have to be used out of the gate to get a front-end spot, or risk losing all sorts of valuable ground into the first turn.

Stumbling Block, who has the rail, could be a threat at a price, as might Irish Song, who races second time after a long layoff. A move to Polytrack boosts the chances of Mare's Ex and That I Am.