06/30/2004 11:00PM

Without a Doubt needs bigger finish


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The last three times he raced, Without a Doubt has gotten into winning position and failed. The trainer Christine Janks would love to reach even that point with Fifteen Rounds, who has finished ninth and fourth in two starts this season, and who faces Without a Doubt and four other rivals Saturday in the $40,000 Better Bee Stakes at six furlongs.

Without a Doubt has done something amazing his last three starts, even if his connections can't appreciate it. Each race, Without a Doubt finished second, and each time he was beaten a head - a classic case of what might have been.

But Chris Block, who trains Without a Doubt for Arlington Park's chairman, Dick Duchossois, does not believe his horse is hanging at the wire.

"I don't think he's doing it," Block said. "I think he's giving it all he's got. He just happens to be running into a horse that runs a little better."

No question, Without a Doubt is consistent. In 13 starts, he has four wins and a third to go with seven second-pace finishes. The high-end allowance races in which he has been competing compare favorably with the Better Bee, and Without a Doubt should have a chance to win again.

That is where Janks hopes to find Fifteen Rounds this time. Fifteen Rounds began his career in the spring of 2003 and won his first four starts, but that streak came to an end a year ago, and Fifteen Rounds has now lost four in a row. He showed nothing in his 2003 debut at Hawthorne, but was much better here June 11, setting the pace before giving way in the stretch, settling for fourth behind the crack sprinter Coach Jimi Lee.

"I think he's rounding into form - at least I hope so," said Janks. "Sometimes horses aren't as strong as other times, and I think he's just getting stronger right now. But sometimes they never come back to what they were before. Sometimes they have a spark for awhile, and they lose it."

Chindi, the 10-year-old sprinter, still has flickers, and he heads the old-timer contingent in the Better Bee. Sand Ridge is 9, Silver Zipper 7, and these horses still are fast enough to stay with their younger rivals.

Harty returns with solo act

The string of horses that the California-based trainer Eoin Harty raced at Arlington was disbanded this season. But Harty is back with one horse for Saturday's Arlington Classic, the lightly raced and highly promising colt Street Theatre.

Headed by assistant Dave Duggan, Harty's Arlington division developed some decent young horses the last few summers, but changes in Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable led Harty to base his operation strictly in California. The stable had been divided, Harty said, to give more horses opportunities to run, but Harty has fewer Darley horses now, and even has taken on 10 horses for outside clients.

It was only recently that Darley began buying American horses from 2-year-old in training sales, and that is where Street Theatre came from. Sold in the winter of 2003, Street Theater fetched a top bid of $500,000 - and soon was taken out of training.

"The 2-year-old in training thing was hell on him," Harty said. "He was untrainable at 2, he was so headstrong. He's still pretty tough to train. Around the barn, he's fine, but you take him out to the racetrack and he wants to do too much."

The late start could ultimately benefit Street Theatre, since he is by Theatrical, whose offspring often mature late, both physically and mentally. Theatricals also move up on grass, and after finishing fifth in a dirt sprint to start his career, Street Theatre won a one-mile turf maiden by four lengths. Harty chose the Grade 3 Will Rogers over an allowance race against older horses, and Street Theatre was third, a performance good enough to land him a trip to Arlington.

"The Arlington turf course is more European-style, and he might like the wider, sweeping turns," Harty said. "It'll be interesting to see how he does."

Stakes debut for On the Course

Herculated, who finished second in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz before running poorly in the Dixie Handicap in May, has begun galloping again, according to his trainer, Mike Stidham. Herculated has battled foot problems the last couple of months.

In his absence, Stidham has come up with another promising young turf horse, this one for the Chicago owner Barry Golden. On the Course has done nearly everything right since launching his career over the winter at Fair Grounds, and Saturday he will make his stakes debut in the Firecracker Breeders' Cup at Churchill.

"I think we fit the race at the weight we were given," Stidham said. On the Course was assigned 112 pounds for the race, nine less than topweighted Perfect Soul.

Meanwhile, Stidham is shopping for a race for Intrinsic Worth, who has not started since an impressive victory here on opening day. A 3-year-old, Intrinsic Worth has done best as a late-running sprinter, but there is a paucity of age-restricted sprint stakes from which to choose, Stidham said.

* Nine horses, including the defending champion, Ballingarry, were entered Thursday for Sunday's Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Handicap, a 1 1/2-mile grass race. The field, from the rail out, is: Quest Star, Ballingarry, Prodigus, Grey Beard, Silverfoot, Cloudy's Knight, Balustrade, Major Rhythm, and Art Variety.