09/02/2005 12:00AM

Thistledown: Fisticuff early and late

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Fisticuff heads a field of 11 Ohio-bred 2-year-olds scheduled to run six furlongs in the $40,000 Loyalty Stakes at Thistledown.

A chestnut gelded son of Mercer Mill out of E. Golden Honey, Fisticuff comes into the race off a sharp victory going 5 1/2 furlongs against statebred maidens on Aug. 22. His two starts before that were in stakes. He finished third in the six-furlong Cleveland Kindergarten at Thistledown on Aug. 12 and was fifth in the Hoover at River Downs.

Fistcuff has the tactical speed to be well-placed, and his solid late kick might well make him difficult to deal with. Ricardo Felicano will ride for trainer Tim Hamm. All starters will carry 117 pounds.

Main opposition for Fisticuff should come from Touch It Up and Turnpike Mike. Touch It Up set the pace in front of Fisticuff in the Aug. 22 race before settling for second beaten 2 1/2 lengths. In his only other start he was an even fifth after hitting the side of the gate at the start. A little improvement off his last will make him a factor. He is trained by Mark Doering and will be ridden by Victor Urieta-Moran.

Turnpike Mike was the pacesetter in the race with the top two horses and tired to be fourth, beaten 6 3/4 lengths. Leading rider Scott Spieth will ride for trainer Michael W. Nance.

Run Earl Run, who, like Fisticuff, is trained by Tilm Hamm, was a front-running winner in his career debut here on Aug. 13. He will offer a strong argument for the early fractions and appears capable of wiring this field. Irwin Rosendo will ride.