02/17/2007 1:00AM

Two in field try for third win in row

Email

OLDSMAR, Fla. - Proud and Bold and Art of Diplomacy both shoot for their third straight wins but face a host of challengers, including several talented runners from south Florida, in a field of nine for Tuesday's headliner at Tampa Bay Downs. The optional claiming race is slated for about 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Proud and Bold, a Pentelicus gelding, hails from the stable of Rick Slomkowski, who has been winning at better than a 40 percent clip this meeting. Haltered for $25,000 last October at Hawthorne, Proud and Bold was given nine weeks off before returning to action here in a $25,000 claiming route at about a mile on the turf. He dusted a solid field, rallying from just off the pace after five furlongs and drawing off to win by more than six lengths.

Brought back against optional claiming types at 1 1/16 miles in a race that was moved from the turf to the main track, Proud and Bold posted his second straight local win. He stalked the leaders after breaking from the outside post in that field of 10, then made his bid leaving the second turn and drew away late to score by more than three lengths.

Jose Ferrer was aboard Proud and Bold in both races, and returns Tuesday at 118 pounds.

Art of Diplomacy also came south from Chicago, where he had left the winless ranks in his sixth try on the turf. In his first start at Tampa, on Dec. 26, he overcame traffic problems to run down the leaders in a race that was moved from the turf to the main track.

Brought back on the grass, Art of Diplomacy overcame traffic problems again when he found room between rivals and rallied in time for a three-quarter-length win.

Midway Man comes over from Fair Grounds, where he disappointed in two turf starts. But he has two wins from six races since being claimed by trainer Tom Proctor for his present owners, and a change of scenery could make him a threat.

Champagne Brunch upset a field of high-priced claiming turfers at Gulfstream Park at

11-1 in his second start for a new stable, and rarely seems to turn in a poor effort. Pitchicholas failed to hit the board as a longshot against nonwinners-of-three allowance foes on the turf in his last two at Gulfstream, and may find this an easier spot.