07/30/2001 12:00AM

Top two fillies look hard to get past


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - In a way, Saturday's Grade 3 Modesty Handicap has spilled over onto Arlington's Wednesday's card. Watch and Lady of Peace, two fillies who were being considered for the Modesty, skipped the stakes in favor of Wednesday's allowance feature here, a turf race at about one mile that drew a field of nine.

Watch deserves to be a solid favorite given the way she has run this summer for owner Claiborne Farm and trainer Frankie Brothers, whose string had a hot opening week here but has been relatively quiet since. A 4-year-old homebred by Lord at War, Watch sat on the sidelines between January, when she finished unplaced in the Sixty Sails Handicap at Fair Grounds, and June, when she made a successful comeback in a Churchill Downs turf allowance race.

Watch raced here earlier in the meet, on July 8, in what was billed as an allowance prep for the Modesty. Watch made all the running from the gate until inside the final furlong, but was nailed at the wire by the filly Great Fever, who may have run a career-best race to win.

Since she switched to turf racing 14 months ago, Watch has compiled a 10-5-2-0 record and has won two stakes, the Summertime Promise at Hawthorne and the Lone Star Oaks. Her pedigree suggests she will get even better with age. Her class and speed edge over Wednesday's field indicate she will not be caught this time. Lonnie Meche has the cal.

Lady of Peace, meanwhile, needs to recapture the form she apparently left behind at the Fair Grounds meet, where she had an amazing run this winter, winning four turf races between November and March. When the filly easily outkicked stakes winners Impending Bear and Only to You in a March 24 allowance, trainer Bobby Springer and owner Russell Reinneman moved Lady of Peace into stakes company, but in two Grade 3 starts in Kentucky this spring the filly finished sixth. In the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland she encountered a ton of trouble, but in the Mint Julep at Churchill there was no apparent excuse. After seven weeks off, Lady of Peace finished fifth behind Great Fever and Watch, but was beaten only three lengths and has a chance to improve in this start. She worked a strong five furlongs on dirt July 20.

There's no rain in the forecast, and if the race stays on turf it's difficult to foresee anyone but the top two fillies winning. On dirt, which Watch has handled before, Rodeo Fan edges into the picture. Fourth in the $125,000 Iowa Distaff in her last race, Rodeo Fan, from the Don Von Hemel barn, won three straight dirt races before that.

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