08/18/2008 12:00AM

Throng's drop raises questions


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - There might be a 400-pound gorilla in the featured seventh race Wednesday at Arlington, but in horse racing, it is sometimes surprisingly hard to tell.

Throng ran for a $100,000 tag when he last raced July 13 at Arlington, and facing seven foes in a race also open to high-end allowance horses, Throng looked pretty dominant, scoring a three-length win over Rey del Sol, who came back to win well. Throng is only a 5-year-old, has won 7 of 25 career starts, handles both Polytrack and dirt, and mainly has been a listed-stakes-type horse. If he runs his race Wednesday in the optional $50,000 claiming race, Throng wins, but that "if" is where all the uncertainty arises. If Throng still was ascendant, would trainer Todd Pletcher be halving his claiming tag five weeks after a good win?

So, the dilemma: Live with Throng at a short price, or find one of the other six entered in a 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race. Three besides Throng start for the claiming option, while Brothers Nicholas and two Steve Hobby-trained horses, Kentucky Man and Shim's Pride, qualify as third-level allowance starters.

Iosilver, once a stakes horse himself, looks like the second choice. From the barn of Chris Block, Iosilver has won high-priced claimers in his two most recent starts, taking the lead out of the gate and leading his foes on a merry chase. With little early speed to oppose him Wednesday, Iosilver could shake loose once again, but the front-runner will have to hold off better horses than he did the last two times.

Both the Hobby horses look okay, but not great, while Snowblind Friend has made a habit of winning Arlington races at long odds. Unless Throng shows speed, which is possible, Strike Impact seems like the only one with a chance to keep Iosilver honest on the lead, and pace-chasing trips in Polytrack routes here have almost always ended badly.

Which brings us round to Brothers Nicholas, who might have a shot at a minor upset. A 4-year-old gelding from the Jerry Calvin stable, Brothers Nicholas has hinted at talent throughout his career, and with only 13 starts, might yet have room to improve. He won a second-level allowance race at this nine-furlong trip when he last raced on June 19 and has breezed steadily while awaiting another suitable spot. This is it, and Calvin figures to have Brothers Nicholas tuned up for a peak effort.

But if the big gorilla does indeed show up, it still might not be enough.