06/16/2005 11:00PM

Trend points to early turf speed at Arlington


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Some things in life aren't fair, but that isn't always a bad thing.

The turf course at Arlington Park has been much kinder to horses with early, tactical speed than mid-pack runners or closers in recent days. A check of the 14 turf races run there from June 9 through 16 shows that nine of them were won by horses among the first three runners at the first call. That's a strong 64 percent. Three of them led at the first call. Another two winners came from second, and three more were in contention in third.

There are three turf races scheduled to be run at Arlington on Sunday. If the trend favoring early and tactical speed continues, it should help to pare down the contenders, and might point us toward the winners. Let's take a closer look at them.

The fourth race is a $10,000 starter allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Warbond has won three of her last four races by large margins, ranging from six to 12 1/2 lengths, and showed early speed in all of them. The catch is that those wins were all earned on the dirt. The one loss during that period came in her first career start on the grass. She finished sixth of seven, beaten by 18 1/2 lengths in that race, and was given a Beyer Speed Figure of 39, much lower than the 80, 84, and 86 Beyer Figures she registered on the main track. If we can take that turf defeat at face value, this race will be contentious.

I like Sanibel Sunset. Sanibel Sunset ran well on the turf last year, then tailed off. She has changed hands a couple of times, but it is encouraging to see that she was an easy winner over softer competition at Keeneland on April 23, which was her first time back following a claim by Eric Reed. She should be up close to the speed, and will like returning to the turf. Miss Expectations is interesting in this race as the speed stretching out from a series of sprints, but her come-home times suggest that she may fade down the stretch at this longer distance.

The next turf race on the card is the sixth, a one-mile allowance/optional $62,500 claiming race. Touch of Victory is a closer who should receive good betting support following a third-place finish as the 9-5 favorite at this same class level here last time. Vidlocity, who tends to rally from mid-pack, will also take money. I'll see if I can beat them with Chic Dancer and Teller Line. Chic Dancer was among the first three to the first call in five of her last six route races. She was a convincing winner on this course when she beat allowance N2X company by 3 3/4 lengths with a Beyer of 88 on May 22 - her first start since August. Her tactical speed makes her a good fit for the way this lawn is playing, and a similar effort can win it.

Teller Line was overmatched last time as a 20-1 longshot in a stakes race on this course on May 29. Her recent dirt form is good enough to make her a major player. Her lone previous turf start was a sprint race that netted a Beyer similar to many of the dirt numbers she was earning at the time last year, so it might be worth giving her the benefit of the doubt as she drops in class and stays on the grass today.

The ninth race is the featured Double Delta, a $40,000 stakes run at one mile on the turf. Turf races at Arlington run on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday with fields of at least eight horses qualify for Arlington's $100,000-guaranteed trifecta pool. Nine horses were entered, so there is a good chance the guarantee will apply.

Shadowy Waters, Rugula, and More Than Promised look best. Shadowy Waters just graduated in a six furlong sprint on the dirt, and should show early speed while stretching out. Her turf Tomlinson rating of 353 suggests that improvement is possible on the surface switch.

Rugula is clearly the class of this field, with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn two races ago. The catch is that she was loose on the lead most of the way, and will face more pressure today. Look past her Beyer of 86 from that performance, and the 76 and 74 Beyers she earned in her other two routes would make her vulnerable at underlaid odds. It will be worth trying to beat her in the top slot, but she still deserves consideration in the trifecta with the chance she will move up first time on the grass with a turf Tomlinson of 349.

More Than Promised is a contender who should be within easy striking distance, and must be considered for a share.