03/20/2007 11:00PM

Two hurdles for Rich Fantasy


The featured ninth race on Friday at Fair Grounds will have the feel of a summer day at Arlington Park near Chicago - Illinois-breds abound. One of them, Dyna Slam, looks like an outsider in a third-level allowance race carded for about 7 1/2 furlongs on turf, but Rich Fantasy could be favored to win the race, and if not she, then perhaps You Dancing Devil will be the chalk in the race.

The Illinois breeding program has for the most part stagnated in recent years, but one wouldn't know it from the Fair Grounds feature. Rich Fantasy has not yet won an Illinois-bred stakes - though she has tried - but captured an open overnight stakes last summer at Arlington and was a sharp winner of her turf debut last Aug. 26, the $74,000 Lyrique Stakes at Louisiana Downs. Back about a month later, Rich Fantasy didn't run quite as well when she faded to fourth in the $200,000 DeBartolo Oaks, and though trainer Ronny Werner has gotten a pair of recent five-furlong works into Rich Fantasy, there are significant hurdles on Friday.

First is the six-month break since the DeBartolo, second the complete difference in course style from Louisiana Downs to Fair Grounds. Rich Fantasy might have handled the short-trimmed, fast-playing turf at Louisiana Downs, but the slow-playing, sand-based grass at Fair Grounds is an entirely different story.

We already know that You Dancing Devil handles it. You Dancing Devil managed to go winless in 2006, though she ran winning-type races on several occasions. Her first Fair Grounds start of the winter - and first since coming into the barn of trainer Neil Pessin - resulted in a subpar sixth-place finish in a Jan. 14 third-level allowance, but You Dancing Devil was exiting her own layoff that day, and was hurt by a wide post. Back on March 4, she was much better, making a good stretch run into a dawdling early pace to finish second, beaten only by the promising Tom Proctor-trained filly Bridge Game. There's enough early speed entered in Friday's race to produce an honest pace, which may be all You Dancing Devil needs to win.

Miss Laken is not an Illinois-bred, but might also give a decent account of herself. She finished ninth in her 2006 finale in November at Churchill Downs, but before that start won consecutive turf races in Chicago for the Proctor barn.