05/25/2007 11:00PM

Spotsgone on mark in Hanshin


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The result of the Hanshin Cup Handicap was unexpected – but hardly historically unprecedented. Sure, Spotsgone paid a meet-high $165 to win, the largest mutuel in the history of the Hanshin Cup, which used to be called the Equipoise Mile. But the 60-year-old Earlie Fires was aboard Spotsgone, and Mr. Fires has found the winner’s circle in stakes races, well, 103 times now, by far the most in Arlington Park history.

And Fires got there in his typical fashion – on the front end. Riding for his older brother, Jinks Fires, Spotsgone set a torrid early pace in the one-mile Hanshin, but never wavered, turning back a challenge from heavily favored Lewis Michael at the top of the stretch to post a 2 1/4-length victory.

“The thing he doesn’t like is horses on the outside of him, and Earlie didn’t let that happen,” Jinks Fires said.

Fires said he had tried to enter Spotsgone in allowance races at Arlington and Churchill, but when the races failed to attract sufficient entries to be carded, he took a shot in the Hanshin. “He’d never been on the Polytrack, so we were a little skeptical of that, but we thought he’d run well,” Fires said.

Spotsgone ran by far the fastest mile time of Arlington’s Polytrack era, getting the distance in 1:33.72 off a half-mile split of 45.61 seconds. Lewis Michael, who appeared antsy before the race, finished an even second, one placing ahead of Gouldings Green, who was placed first via disqualification in the 2006 Hanshin. Fort Prado finished fourth, while second-choice Purim faded off the pace and was eighth.