05/19/2008 11:00PM

Stutts arrives with Smooth Air and Cubs Fan


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Bennie Stutts is a longtime Thoroughbred trainer, but his roots in the sport go deeper than his own career.

"My dad was a trainer, too," Stutts said. "I was born in New Orleans, and we went from track to track. I grew up living that gypsy lifestyle."

Stutts, 70, long ago settled into the Florida circuit, raising his children with a greater measure of geographic stability. But for a little while, Stutts has gone back to that gypsy lifestyle.

Stutts was speaking Tuesday morning from the clockers' area in the press box at Arlington Park, far away from his home base at Calder Race Course. And this trip to Chicago comes only a couple weeks after Stutts was in Kentucky, where Smooth Air finished 11th in Stutts's Kentucky Derby debut.

In the middle of Monday night, Smooth Air arrived in Chicago, having flown here from Florida with a 3-year-old turf filly named Cubs Fan. Cubs Fan will start here Saturday in the inaugural running of the American 1000 Guineas, if she can get into the race. Smooth Air, meanwhile, will have a Polytrack breeze here, probably on Sunday, before traveling by van to Cleveland, where he will gallop into the Ohio Derby a week from Saturday. Smooth Air and Cubs Fan are scheduled to spend much of the summer at Arlington, while Stutts's other seven horses remain at Calder.

Stutts has not raced at Arlington since 1969, he said, but has ties to the area. One of the many schools he attended was blocks from Hawthorne Race Course and Sportsman's Park in Cicero, Ill. And Stutts said he saddled his the first winner of his career here at Arlington in 1968.

Cubs Fan is owned by the Mt. Joy Stable of Chicagoan Brian Burns and others, and won her only grass race by three lengths last September at Calder. She has not started since, but Stutts said Cubs Fan "has a lot of talent," and the filly might slot in decently in the $200,000 American 1000 Guineas. First, she has to get into a race that is capped at 14 starters, but drew 33 nominations and easily could overfill.

The American 1000 Guineas shares top billing Saturday with the Hanshin Cup, a one-mile Polytrack race for older horses, and the Arlington Classic, a grass race for 3-year-old males. The Saturday card was to be drawn Wednesday.

Coragil Cat is losing no more

Spotsgone, who won the 2007 Hanshin Cup at odds of 81-1, is one of several solid milers pointing for Saturday's Hanshin, but while Spotsgone will not be the favorite, his odds may be shorter than those of Coragil Cat, who has a chance for his own upset this year.

A Forest Wildcat 4-year-old, bred and owned by Jim Tafel, Coragil Cat made his career debut here in August 2006, won his second career start - and then went on an epic losing streak.

Coragil Cat lost at Keeneland, and he lost at Tampa. He lost when he returned to Arlington, he lost at Hawthorne, and he lost at Fair Grounds. Coragil Cat lost sprinting, and lost routing, lost on dirt, and lost on Polytrack, at long odds and at short. In all, Coragil Cat lost 17 times in a row before finally clearing his first allowance condition with a narrow win on March 8 at Fair Grounds.

But Coragil Cat beat a decent horse named Sonoma Cat that day, and he had been improving since last fall. Trainer Greg Geier brought Coragil Cat from his Fair Grounds allowance win in the May 3 Timeless Native Stakes here opening day, and at odds of 11-1 in a five-horse field, Coragil Cat won by more than two lengths while running a mile in 1:33.55.

"He's really come around the last month at the Fair Grounds and up here," Geier said. "Last year, he ran good on the Polytrack here, and he's still liking it."

Options rising for streaking Telling

The 4-year-old colt Telling keeps clearing every hurdle. A two-race maiden entering this year, Telling won for the first time in February at Oaklawn Park, and won for the fourth straight time when he impressively captured his turf debut here Friday.

At Oaklawn, Telling won a maiden race by a half-length, won an entry-level allowance by three-quarters, and won a second-level allowance by almost three lengths. On Friday, racing over a soft and demanding grass course, he beat a decent Todd Pletcher-trained favorite named Its a Bird by more than two lengths in an allowance race for horses with little prior turf success. Fourth in the early going, Telling reached contention turning for home, took the lead at the stretch call, and drew away late under Eddie Razo.

"Eddie said he just really got to reaching out at the end," said trainer Steve Hobby, whose owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong bought Telling from the Darley Stable after his career debut here last summer.

Telling hasn't run beyond 1 1/16 miles, but the July 4 Stars and Stripes Handicap, a 1 1/2-mile turf race here, may be on his agenda.

"I think he wants to run a long, long way," Hobby said.

Rider fees corrected

A list of jockey mount fees distributed last week at the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association trailer on the Arlington backstretch erroneously stated the mount fees being charged by two apprentice riders here, Brandon Meier and Florent Geroux.

The mount-fee information sheet - which was filled with a confusing mass of information - said Meier and Geroux were riding under the old fee schedule, with $45 as a base losing-mount fee. Not true, said agent Tom Morgan, who recently picked up Brandon Meier's book, and Britt McGehee, who books mounts for Geroux. Both riders are charging the same fees as almost all the permanent members of the local colony, with a base-mount fee starting at $80.

The second Arlington condition book of the meet addresses the mount-fee issue on page 60, which provides a list of jockeys and their agents. The condition book states: "The losing jockey mount fees are those fees negotiated between the two interested parties prior to the jockey being named on the horse at time of entry."

* There's no real feature on the nine-race Thursday program, which has an entry-level allowance as the highest-class fare.