07/16/2009 11:00PM

Spanish Baron at home on Poly


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Earlier this year, Irish-born trainer Andrew McKeever had a horse exported from England named Diamond Tycoon, who before he went down with an injury in March, looked ready to take on the world after big grass wins at Fair Grounds. Now comes another McKeever-trained English import, Spanish Baron, who has none of Diamond Tycoon's credentials but an apparently good chance to win the nominally featured eighth race on a very decent Sunday card at Arlington Park.

Spanish Baron raced four times overseas before leaving for the United States, and while his lone win came on turf, he finished second in a Polytrack stakes at Lingfield last October. McKeever brought him out for the first time in an entry-level allowance race here June 28, and despite breaking last of 11 from the rail, Spanish Baron ran on nicely for a close fourth that day. He has since worked a sharp half-mile, and with a better start Sunday, Spanish Baron could prove best in a competitive 10-horse field.

Carded at seven furlongs, the race is open to first-level allowance types or horses entered for a $50,000 tag, and it's the claiming option that lets Edopapas Ekepapas into the field. Trained by Dale Bennett, Edopapas Ekepapas came back from an 18-week layoff on June 28 at Arlington and turned in a fairly remarkable performance, breaking on top, leading through a sizzling sub-45-second half-mile, and easily holding on for a 1 3/4-length victory. Edopapas Ekepapas might be the controlling speed again, but he is liable to regress after the career-best performance and will be asked to stretch his speed another furlong Sunday.

Special Heart returns from a six-month layoff for Churchill Downs-based trainer Jinks Fires. He showed ability before being given time off. Twice second in dirt allowance races, Special Heart won his maiden over Keeneland Polytrack and could well prove to be a better horse on synthetics than dirt.

* Race 7 also is an entry-level allowance, this one for Illinois-bred grass routers, and the group assembled here looks about as closely matched as the one in race 8. Gamblers Reward might wind up favored, since he won his only previous grass race and comes out of the popular Chris Block barn. In his maiden win, Gamblers Reward beat Cannon's Call, who came right back to score his own Illinois-bred turf maiden victory on June 27 and is back for Sunday's race. Toss in Charter Class, who beat Gambler's Reward in a Polytrack one-turn mile last out, and this has the makings of a key race.