09/04/2001 11:00PM

Trainer's claim turns into stakes winner


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Suddenly, because of the 5-year-old gelding Promise of War, the Pat Cuccurullo stable requires a new tool.

"We had to dig out a national stakes condition book," Cuccurullo said Wednesday morning, having finished training his barn full of claiming stock. "We finally found one, and it was from the second quarter of 2000. It's not something we usually use."

It is now. Promise of War, owned by Lothenbach Stable, won the $75,000 Tri State Handicap on Monday at Ellis Park. For Cuccurullo, it was only the fourth stakes win in a career that began in the mid-1980's and has been filled mainly with the constant maneuvering of claiming horses.

Now, in addition to finding spots for his claimers, Cuccurullo is scouring the Midwest, trying to find a good stakes spot for Promise of War.

Cuccurullo and owner Robert Lothenbach acquired Promise of War the way they come by nearly all their racehorses - through the claim box.

Cuccurullo dropped a claim on the gelding in July 2000, taking him from trainer Steve Asmussen - for whom Cuccurullo once worked - for $50,000. The returns were not immediate. It took Promise of War, a gelding, 11 races to win for Cuccurullo: He dead-heated for first in a $50,000 claimer at Arlington on June 16 despite stumbling in the stretch. In his next two starts, he hooked stakes-quality turf horses, finishing fast on both occasions.

That was good enough for Cuccurullo to enter him in the Ellis race, but there still was the matter of procuring a rider away from home. After failing to get the first five jockeys he wanted, Cuccurullo wound up with young Danny Coa, who proceeded to give Promise of War a perfect ground-saving trip, bursting through a hole that opened at the top of the stretch.

Cuccurullo seems to be adapting quickly to the role of stakes trainer. By Wednesday, he had scribbled on an envelope a series of possible races this fall for his new stable star. Promise of War could start first in an allowance race here, but Cuccurullo wants to try him in a graded stakes, either at Churchill or Hawthorne, in October.

Lunar Bounty leads Spectacular Bid field

A field of about eight is coming together for Saturday's $75,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds that serves as a prep for the Grade 2 Arlington-Washington Futurity later this month. And much like the Top Flight Stakes, the filly counterpart to the Spectacular Bid, the race is attracting interest from somewhat obscure quarters. Colts who last raced at Finger Lakes, Remington, and Canterbury are probable starters in the Spectacular Bid.

But it is a colt whose last race was at Saratoga, Lunar Bounty, who is the most likely winner. Lunar Bounty won his debut at Arlington on June 21, then won the Grade 2 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. He finished fifth, beaten more than 17 lengths, in his most recent race, the Saratoga Special. For whatever reason, Lunar Bounty clearly did not run his race that afternoon, and he has returned to work well at Arlington for trainer Ronny Werner.

Also considered likely starters are Double Zero Seven, winner of an overnight stakes at Arlington; Northern Lights Futurity winner J. P. Jet; Ammodio; Borntobealeader; It'sallinthechase; Super Striker; and Tinker.

Look closely at Cois Cuain

Dick Lundy, who has had strong meets the last two seasons here, has won nine races with 27 starters at this meet.

Six of the winners have come on turf, and all of those winners have been fillies. That is part of the reason Cois Cuain figures strongly in the featured eighth race here Friday, a second-level turf allowance for fillies and mares.

An Irish-bred 4-year-old, Cois Cuain made her first 13 starts in Ireland before a private purchase last year brought her to the United States and, eventually, to Lundy.

Circumstances have limited Cois Cuain to one start, an eighth-place finish here June 28, since coming to the U.S. That race was as much a learning experience as anything for the filly, and she was beaten less than seven lengths while racing out of her proper allowance conditions. Significant improvement is forecast for Friday.

Of the other 11 entered, Sheikh Away, a 3-year-old facing elders, may have the best chance. She finished third in a strong 3-year-old allowance race two starts back, and more recently was a closing third in an overnight stakes.