07/18/2002 11:00PM

Weak American field sets up for Seainsky


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Seainsky was lucky to live through a serious case of pneumonia this winter. His luck is holding. A third-place finish three weeks ago in the Arlington Classic makes Seainsky look pretty good for Sunday's American Derby at Arlington Park, which, for a $225,000 Grade 2, has come up a weak race.

The American Derby, contested at 1 3/16 miles on turf, leads into the Grade 1 Secretariat here next month. It's the second leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple, but not nearly as interesting as the first leg, the Classic, in which Mr. Mellon edged Doc Holiday by a neck. Mr. Mellon is headed back to graded stakes on dirt, Doc Holiday is back in California, and Jeremiah Jack, favored in the Classic, just raced last week in the Virginia Derby. That race, along with the Kent Breeders' Cup this weekend, has spread thin the 3-year-old turf talent in the United States.

That's fine with Wes Hawley, Seainsky's trainer. "Maybe it's not the best bunch of horses, but it could be a spot for a horse like him to shine," Hawley said.

Seainsky was 56-1 in the Classic, but Hawley wasn't satisfied to merely hit the board. "I was disappointed that he didn't win," said Hawley. "I bet $100 across the board on him and keyed him in exactas and trifectas."

On Christmas, Hawley was praying for Seainsky, not betting on him. "He's had setback after setback. Out of nowhere, he came down with a case of pneumonia on Christmas Day, and he almost died."

Seainsky, a Sea Hero colt owned by Jerry Givens and Jack Gullett, recovered and made it back to the races in March. Racing for the first time as a gelding, he showed his fondness for turf by finishing second to the promising colt Major Frank. Hawley put him back on dirt for three races at Lone Star and Seainsky won twice, and he closed strongly going from seventh to third in the stretch of the Classic.

"I don't know if he would have won, but he'd have been closer if he'd gotten out earlier," Hawley said.

Seainsky won't be 56-1 this time, but he won't be favored, either. Mananan Mclir might play the favorite's role, though he does not inspire confidence at a short price. In from California for trainer Wally Dollase, Mananan Mclir has yet to win in four U.S. starts, though he was a close fourth last out in the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap.

Jazz Beat, badly beaten June 30 in the Irish Derby, makes his first U.S. start for trainer Dermot Weld and the Irish jockey Pat Smullen, who paired up to take this race with Pine Dance two years ago.

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