10/24/2007 12:00AM

War Club seeks third in 16 days

EmailThere is something to be said for striking while the iron is hot, even if it flies in the face of conventional wisdom regarding the modern Thoroughbred's alleged fragility.

Trainer Frank Kirby, whose balanced, well-spaced campaigning of Cloudy's Knight has resulted in the gelding becoming one of the top grass runners in North America, is taking an entirely different approach with War Club, an Illinois-bred gelding who seeks his third victory in the span of 16 days in Friday's third race at Hawthorne, a second-level statebred allowance at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Unable to finish within five lengths of the winner in four starts over the Arlington Park turf over the summer, War Club has blossomed since racing shifted to Hawthorne. His first start of the meet, in a statebred maiden special weight on Oct. 11, was a breakout performance long overdue. Stalking in third early, War Club moved up to second around the far turn and took control at the top of the stretch en route to a 1 3/4-length triumph.

Eight days later, War Club was back in against first-level allowance foes, and this time displayed a new dimension by taking control of a paceless affair and leading all the way to win by three lengths. While there are other speed elements in Friday's race, War Club should again be in prime striking position to have a shot if the rugged schedule does not prove to be his undoing.

The possibility of a soft pace might hurt the other leading contenders, especially No More Sweets, who finished ahead of War Club earlier this year and also exits a first-level allowance win. Class Ack has been stuck at this level for more than a year, but narrowly missed against open foes two starts ago. Irish Song, also second against similar two starts back, has not yet reproduced his best race in three previous tries over the Hawthorne turf.

In the event of a switch to the dirt, Woodlands Derby runner-up Glory to Spare, who faltered in his only turf appearance, would be a real threat to lead gate to wire.