09/07/2009 11:00PM

Stanley G. looks in winning form

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Used to be a racing secretary could always hang up a turf race and expect to get a decent-sized field, even if the pace of entries was slow on the main track. But that's no longer the case. There have been many grass races here this summer with surprisingly short fields, and the Thursday feature is no exception.

Just seven horses were entered in this Illinois-bred second-level allowance race carded for 1 1/16 miles on grass. One wishes for more, not just for added competition, but because finding the most likely winner among those actually in the race is no easy thing.

In an unusual circumstance, four of the seven exit a winning performance, with Stanley G., Tazz, Willie To To, and The Alcova Kid all victorious in their most recent outing. But among that group, Stanley G.'s score seems the most pertinent. Tazz and Willie To To won over Arlington's Polytrack, while The Alcova Kid scored on Canterbury Park turf in a claiming race. Stanley G., however, knocked out his entry-level Illinois allowance condition on the Arlington course on Aug. 9, beating Weggie, who came back to win his most recent start.

And Stanley G. looks like he can repeat. His win came after three second-place finishes, and while learning to rate from off the pace rather than run on it this summer, Stanley G. has gradually improved. Gradual improvement is less likely to lead to regression after a win than a sharp form peak, and Stanley G. has held fairly steady throughout the Arlington summer for trainer Frank Kirby. He won last time over 1 1/8 miles, but this slightly shorter trip might actually be better for the horse.

Crater Maker doesn't exit a win, because Crater Maker doesn't win: He finishes second. Eight times in 23 starts Crater Maker has filled out the place hole, and he enters Thursday's race off a string of three straight seconds this meet. Crater Maker came within a neck of winning in his first start of the Arlington season, but has been beaten more convincingly the last time times.

Full Flame looked good in a July 2 turf win, but he is a late runner who needs early pace he is unlikely to get Thursday. Tazz, who stretches out after a Polytrack sprint win, might prove the controlling speed, but he was caught late after leading in the stretch this past April at Hawthorne in his only prior two-turn try.