09/04/2002 11:00PM

Unproven juveniles take a shot


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Without Oneofthebirdboys, conqueror of the Winnipeg Futurity at Assiniboia Downs, Saturday's Spectacular Bid Stakes for 2-year-olds at Arlington could go as a first-level allowance race. It's not that these eight horses lack talent - they simply lack accomplishment.

"We're going right into a stakes off only one maiden race, but that happens with 2-year-olds," said Neil Howard, trainer of Midway Road.

Midway Road, eye-catching winner of an Aug. 17 maiden race here rates as a contender in the six-furlong, $75,000 Spectacular Bid, but then who doesn't? Only Westcoastwildcat, a maiden-claiming winner, seems like a clear throwout.

His provincial Canadian stakes win aside, Oneofthebirdboys may be slightly overmatched, while Wiggins - a flashy workhorse - was hard-ridden to beat a field of statebred maidens for his only win.

That leaves Bold America, Sharp Impact, Shandy, and Unleash the Power as the main challengers to Midway Road, though among the four only Bold America does not enter directly off a maiden win, having finished second in the $50,000 Canterbury Juvenile.

"He'll be in front," trainer Richard Hazelton said.

Possibly. Wiggins also has speed, as does Unleash the Power, an Unbridled colt who was third at Churchill in his career debut, then scored by three-quarters of a length here Aug. 2 while leading all the way through a deceptively slow pace.

"The track was pretty slow that day, and some horses from that race came back and went faster," said Tom Proctor, who trains Unleash the Power for owner Leonard Lavin's Glen Hill Farm. "We're pretty much taking a shot and seeing what we have," said Proctor, echoing the trainers of the other promising maiden winners.

Sharp Impact, who won for Godolphin at first asking here six weeks ago, is another one of those, and assistant trainer Davey Duggan said Sharp Impact has continued moving forward during the long break between starts.

"He thinks he's the best horse in the country right now," Duggan said. "He's got class. We'll find out how good he is."

Howard, meanwhile, thinks Midway Road could turn into a useful colt. "He acts like a colt that might have a little bit of future," Howard said.

Midway Road battled a chronic lung infection earlier this year but has progressed steadily since the problem cleared up. Howard thinks Midway Road, a Jade Hunter colt bred and owned by Will Farish, will improve with more distance, but he had enough speed to press a quick pace from a wide post in his debut and shouldn't be far from the lead at any point Saturday.

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