07/26/2004 11:00PM

This time, Flip won't have it easy


CHICAGO - It has been a perfect summer for Flip, a Jim Tafel-owned colt who has won three races in three tries at this Arlington meet. Everything has gone Flip's way - now it is time to see how much racehorse he is.

Flip was one of eight horses entered in Arlington's featured seventh race on Thursday, a good race for third-level allowance horses or $62,500 claimers that's emblematic of this surprisingly interesting midweek program.

Flip missed 13 months of racing with this, that, and the other physical problems. When he went away, Gene Cilio was his trainer, and when Flip finally was ready, Cilio had passed away, his stable turned over to assistants Greg Geier and Andy Hansen. Geier had Flip this past winter in New Orleans, where he prepared the colt for his comeback in Chicago. Opening week at Arlington, in his first start back, Flip won his maiden by almost seven lengths.

Geier wasn't surprised. He liked Flip all along, and the horse validated his high opinion, beating winners in his first try and easily taking a second-level allowance race here July 4. Flip, by the hot young sire Langfuhr, has twice won at one mile, once at 1 1/8 miles. He puts his head down and gets low to the ground when he races, always moving forward. But Flip has been lucky, too, landing in spots where a quick pace has set up his late run, where minimal opponents have included no worthy rival.

There are several Thursday, chief among them Sterling Gold, Ajedrez, and the Illinois-bred stakes horse Scooter Roach. Sterling Gold, who was scratched out of a sprint race Sunday in favor of this one-turn mile, was third July 3 in a Churchill Downs allowance race - a race that looked even better Saturday when its winner, Unbridled America, lost by a nose to the highly regarded Fire Slam in the $100,000 Don Bernhardt Memorial at Ellis Park. Sterling Gold is ridden by leading jockey Rene Douglas and trained by Bernie Flint, who engineered the horse's $50,000 claim in early May.

Ajedrez was claimed out of a win for $50,000 on July 4, going to owner Carl Moore and trainer Bret Calhoun, who won twice last week, breaking his Arlington slump. He and Scooter Roach, fourth in the Black Tie Affair here the last time he raced, both have a solid chance to win.

- Neil Howard said Tuesday morning that Black Tie Affair winner Alumni Hall will not ship to Arlington for Saturday's Washington Park Handicap. Alumni Hall is a likely starter in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap. His absence leaves the race with four probable starters: Colonial Colony, Congrats, Eye of the Tiger, and Olmodavor.