07/07/2008 11:00PM

Unbridled Vicar needs a rebound

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Unbridled Vicar almost beat Denis of Cork in a Fair Grounds allowance race, finished a respectable fourth in the Risen Star Stakes, and won a Hawthorne two-turn allowance in gritty fashion on April 4.

A start in the Northern Dancer on June 14 at Churchill seemed reasonable enough, but that didn't work out at all. There were six horses in the race, and Unbridled Vicar served as the caboose, finishing 20 lengths behind victorious Pyro.

"He had trouble early in the race, and I don't know what happened after that," said trainer Greg Geier. "It's one of those puzzles, I guess."

Thursday, Unbridled Vicar will attempt to bounce back to his better form when he starts in the featured eighth race at Arlington, a second-level allowance carded for 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.

"We got him back up here and got him going again," Geier said. "He's doing good, so we'll go back in a conditioned race and see what happens."

Unbridled Vicar was one of nine horses entered in the Thursday feature, and even if he comes back around, he is nothing like a standout in what looks like a competitive group. The Arlington morning line lists Unbridled Vicar as the 7-2 second choice behind tepid 3-1 favorite Best Buddy, who already had his bounce-back race.

Best Buddy - like Unbridled Vicar a 3-year-old - romped through two Illinois-bred allowance conditions in two-turn dirt races at Hawthorne this spring, but his momentum was stopped cold by a 10th-place finish in his turf debut May 17 at Arlington. But Best Buddy was back to something closer to his best in the June 21 Springfield Stakes for Illinois-bred 3-year-olds, finishing a closing third behind the solid horses Amazing Results and Mr. Mischief.

"Off the turf race I had a little problem with him, and I couldn't work him the way I wanted to," said trainer Brian Williamson. "He's going into this race better than he went into the last race."

While Best Buddy's ideal trip might be two turns on dirt, he showed last out that he can handle Polytrack, and a return to true route racing Thursday should aid his chances.

Still, not a single one of the other seven horses in the race can easily be tossed, and rail-drawn Alabama Gold has a chance to shake loose on a clear early lead while backing up the pace.