05/14/2008 12:00AM

Telling, a shrewd buy, tries turf


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - An A.P. Indy colt named Telling was culled from the powerhouse Darley stable herd last summer, sold privately to owners Alex and Joanne Lieblong after a decent career debut at Arlington. The purchase has so far worked out well for the Lieblongs and trainer Steve Hobby: Telling enters the featured fourth race on Friday at Arlington having won three races in a row during a winter campaign at Oaklawn Park.

Telling was one of seven horses entered in a 1 1/16-mile grass allowance race open only to horses who haven't won a race other than maiden, claiming, or starter on the turf. Telling keeps running better and better, but he may have to move up again to capture his fourth straight race, since the Todd Pletcher-trained It's a Bird looks like the horse to beat.

But who's to say that there's not more to come from Telling, who finished second in a Hawthorne sprint race last fall in his first start for Hobby, then went to Oaklawn and ran right through his allowance conditions once he was stretched out to two turns.

"He's a gorgeous horse, and to see him you had to like him," said Hobby, who noted that the Lieblongs also purchased the Arlington runner Live From Apollo in a package deal that included Telling. "He had a few little issues we had to work through, but we gave him some time, and he just got better and better."

Telling won twice as the favorite, and was just 3-1 when he captured a second-level allowance race by almost two lengths in his most recent start on April 3.

"By the time we got to Oaklawn, he trained like he was a pretty good horse," said Hobby, who is off to a good start at Arlington, with 4 wins and 4 seconds from his first 16 runners here. "He'd kind of turned the corner for us."

Hobby said Telling has "got a real high kind of action that'd make you think he'd like turf," which is good to know, considering Telling has raced only on dirt and Polytrack so far.

It's a Bird, on the other hand, has tried turf four times, with only a third-place finish to show for his efforts, but the story may go a little deeper than that. In his most recent grass race, It's a Bird finished third behind stakes-class horses Chattahoochee War and Heroi do Bafra; his previous grass race, back in February, was It's a Bird's first start in nine months, and came in a stakes race.

Shrewd Operator targets White Oak

Shrewd Operator returned to his better form and dominated an overmatched group of Illinois-bred allowance runners last Sunday. Winner of two straight races here last summer, and third in the Perryville Stakes last October at Keeneland, Shrewd Operator took a tough loss at Hawthorne in his 2007 finale, and suffered a surprising allowance-race defeat there in his 2008 debut.

"He ran to my expectations," trainer Chris Block said. "That was a good step to get him back headed in the right direction. He hadn't come out of that last race really healthy - he was a little sick - so it was a good race to get him back into a groove."

Block said Shrewd Operator would be pointed to the June 21 White Oak Handicap on the Prairie State Festival for Illinois-breds.

Block, however, will be in stakes action before then, with Amazing Results penciled in for a start in the Arlington Classic on May 25, and Fort Prado pointing for the Hanshin Cup on the same day.