07/13/2005 11:00PM

Stidham has pair to watch

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Run the 2005 Round Table Stakes 10 times, and you might come up with six different winners. If parity is what you look for in a horse race, tune into Arlington Park on Saturday afternoon.

Nine horses were entered in the 1 1/8-mile, $100,000 Round Table, Arlington's premier dirt race for 3-year-olds. It's a nice number with decent quality considering these midsummer months are cluttered with various derbies throwing money around like clover.

As for picking the winner, well, that is another story altogether.

Start the paring-down process with , who did look sharp winning an entry-level allowance in his last start, but who appears to be a notch below the best in the Round Table. Next might come Bob O's Boy, whose three victories to start his career all came going short, and whose chances took a hit when he drew post 9.

"He's still a little bit green compared to some of these, and the distance is the question," said Peaches Geier, trainer Bret Calhoun's Arlington assistant.

and Straight Line probably come out of the best recent races, the Iowa and Ohio derbies, respectively. Problem is, those races took place just two weeks ago, and the trainers of both horses, Frank Kirby and Brian Williamson, wish they had another week between starts.

"It is short rest, but he likes this track," Williamson said of Straight Line.

made the lead around the far turn in Ohio, but faded to fifth in the stretch. So far he has shown much more spark in one-turn races than around two, and the question remains whether Straight Line is as effective running long.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has a coupled entry, Jazzy Gallop and Real Dandy, while Mike Stidham saddles separate betting interests, Devilment and Thunder Mission. Devilment might be the one to beat Saturday, Thunder Mission perhaps the one to catch. Stretched out to two turns with blinkers added two starts back, Devilment crushed entry-level allowance foes, and he was beaten a neck by Three Hour Nap in the local Round Table prep.

"Blinkers have helped to settle him in," Stidham said.

Thunder Mission exits two blowout wins in Texas, and might contend despite taking a significant step up in class. A class test also will be administered to High Expectations, who trounced Illinois-breds in his last three races, and has two Arlington wins at this nine-furlong distance.