09/30/2004 11:00PM

'Stormy' aims to close deal this time


STICKNEY, Ill. - Stormybdanc-ing has teased, flirted, and brushed right up against a second-level allowance win, but as close she's come, Stormy-bdancing has lost eight in a row since she won an entry-level allowance in late summer 2003.

If you could trust her to break through, Stormybdancing could be the play Sunday at Hawthorne in the co-featured ninth race. The ninth is for second-level allowance fillies at one mile on turf; the fifth is a dirt route run under the same conditions. The two races share something else: They're both bent toward the inscrutable.

It doesn't take long to see Stormybdancing fits the spot, since she finished third, beaten a neck for first, in a Sept. 12 Arlington race similar to Sunday's. But more than Stormybdancing's tendency to settle for seconds and thirds, trainer Terrel Gore worries about a change in venue. Stormybdancing trains well enough on the Hawthorne dirt, but Gore said she prefers the Arlington turf course to Hawthorne's.

"Last year she just seemed to run better at Arlington than over here," Gore said Friday. "There's a little difference in the footing, I guess. She's a little better horse this year than last year, so I'm hoping it doesn't matter now."

Since she's lost several close decisions, some would suggest Stormybdancing is something of a hanger, but Gore sees things from a different perspective. Stormybdancing, he says, almost always runs her race, and that alone makes her at least mildly attractive in this crapshoot of a grass race.

There is Ide Be a Lady, who won an entry-level off-the-turf allowance Aug. 28 at Arlington, but she finished behind Stormydancing last out and has never won on grass. Speak Easy, a $50,000 claim Aug. 6, has never tried turf, but has some talent and a pedigree slanted toward grass.

The fifth is even more puzzling if you believe Vecchia Cita is a vulnerable favorite. That could be a decent position to take, since she finished second, beaten more than eight lengths, as the 3-2 betting choice in her last start.

Rocky River takes a break

Rocky River, the 2-year-old colt who finished a fading third as the heavy favorite in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, has been sent to Domino Stud near Lexington, Ky., and will take the next couple months off.

"He had a little problem we had to correct, so we went ahead and turned him out," said trainer Don Von Hemel.

Rocky River, a pricey 2-year-old auction buy this past spring, was an easy winner of his first two races, but he essentially ran off with jockey Chris Emigh in the one-mile Futurity and tired in the stretch run.

Von Hemel said that if all went well, Rocky River could make a comeback early next year.

"We should be in business for Oaklawn," Von Hemel said.

News varies for Kirby horses

Trainer Frank Kirby has stakes-class turf horses going in different directions. Sharbayan came out of the Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs with a wrenched ankle and has been turned out for the winter at his owner's Missouri Farm. Back at Hawthorne, the rapidly developing Cloudy's Knight breezed a solid six furlongs on dirt Friday, working in 1:14, the fastest of six works at the distance,

"He worked real easy," Kirby said. "He's still doing good."

Cloudy's Knight stepped up in class and impressively won an overnight turf stakes at Arlington in his last start. He could run next in the Carey Memorial here, or in the Sycamore Breeders' Cup at Keeneland, but neither race really hits Cloudy's Knight between the eyes. At one mile, the Carey might be too short, and the 1 1/2-mile Sycamore could stretch Cloudy's Knight's distance limitations.

"Something in between would probably be better," Kirby said.

In any case, Cloudy's Knight, who stands a huge 17-1 hands, probably will be finished for the year after his next start. A 4-year-old, Cloudy's Knight has steadily improved through the year, and Kirby says he could be even better in 2005.

That is when Sharbayan could resurface. Kirby said Sharbayan has battled an ankle problem in the past, but his injury late last month won't require surgery.

Another Kirby-trained stakes horse, Bare Necessities, worked a half-mile in 49 seconds here Thursday.