08/17/2007 12:00AM

You Go West Girl well-rested for Hatoof


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - With 2 wins and 2 seconds from 4 starts, and a good second last out in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs, You Go West Girl looks very much like the horse to beat in the $45,000 Hatoof Stakes on Sunday at Arlington. And that's just on paper.

Behind You Go West Girl's past performances lurks still more positive information. First, a two-month gap between races should have You Go West Girl primed for a strong effort, since trainer Tom Proctor said You Go West Girl is on the delicate side and benefits from time between starts.

"She's got some quality, but she's not a real big, robust filly," Proctor said. "You kind of have to take it easy with her."

Moreover, though she finished second in the Regret after breaking from post 10 on June 16, You Go West Girl - in Proctor's estimation - didn't run a complete race that day.

"She'd done everything right her first three races, but it was the first time she ran a little bit green," Proctor said. "I thought she ran a little bit spotty in there. I thought she was a little hesitant to run between horses."

No doubt, You Go West Girl looks good in the Hatoof, a 1 1/16-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies, but Proctor concedes that the main goal for her is the Grade 3 Pucker Up on Sept. 8. And in a race where a short-priced horse is prepping for something more important, bettors often benefit by shopping around for a longer-odds alternative.

First off, the pace in the Hatoof should be strong, unless either Pitamakan or Dashes N Dots suddenly changes running style. Both fillies are strong-galloping, front-running types, and they will almost certainly clash on the lead. But if one slips clear through moderate splits, look out.

Also worth considering is Ciao, whose three wins from six turf starts include an overnight stakes victory last fall at Churchill. Ciao never got untracked in a ninth-place finish last out in the Virginia Oaks, but that was nothing like a true representation of her ability.

"Oh, she got pretty frazzled by the time they got to the post up there," said trainer Frank Kirby. "She's training really well, and I think she'll run well."

After slow start, Kirby bags three on card

Kirby, meanwhile, finally had a good day at this Arlington meet, winning 3 of the 9 races here on Thursday. Kirby now has won with 4 of his last 18 starters, which isn't earth-shattering, but it took Kirby 111 races at the beginning of the meet to notch his first four wins here. That's especially surprising since Kirby, the leading Arlington trainer in 2004, won 31 races and was second in the standings last year.

"I don't know, but it seemed like it just took some of the horses awhile to adjust to the Polytrack," Kirby said. "I haven't really done anything different."

Summer Range, Kirby's first winner on Thursday, seems to have benefited from the move to an all-weather surface. For Lord Carmen, who won the featured eighth race with a powerful late run under Mark Guidry, the key might have been a yielding turf course. Lord Carmen, who hadn't won since capturing the Rossi Gold last Sept. 2 at Arlington, seems to excel on wet turf, having been beaten a nose last fall in the Kentucky Cup Turf on off going.

"He likes that soft turf, and Mark rode him so well," Kirby said.

Lord Carmen could make a return appearance in the Rossi Gold, Kirby said, while an even higher-quality grass horse, Cloudy's Knight, will make his next start at Woodbine in the Nijinsky Stakes on Aug. 24.

Racing caught up in state budget dispute

Besides overseeing one of the more major outfits in Chicago, Kirby also began serving as president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association this year, and that has not been smooth sailing, either. Kirby - along with the rest of Illinois's racing interests - has watched the state legislature twist and turn through an agonizing spring and summer of wrangling over the state budget and capital spending.

Illinois still does not have a working budget, and Illinois racing is caught up in high-profile negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Rod Blagojevich. State racing interests had hoped to emerge from a spring legislative session either with permission to operate gaming devices, or an impact fee that would direct some casino revenues to purses and track operators.

While a state budget is close to being passed, capital spending bills are farther away, Kirby said, and while slot-machine positions now seem like a longshot, Kirby said racing still could get help.

"I'd say right now the most likely thing would be impact fees," Kirby said.

* Graded stakes winner Purim, who ran poorly last out in the May 26 Hanshin Cup and subsequently had throat surgery, is back in business. He worked one mile on Polytrack on Wednesday at Arlington, and will ship to Woodbine for the Aug. 25 Play the King Stakes.