12/12/2007 1:00AM

Zoran claim paying off for Kirby

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - When trainer Frank Kirby and owner Richard Trebat claimed Zoran for $15,000 on Sept. 5 at Arlington, one had to wonder why Kirby would want the horse back. Kirby had trained Zoran for his first four starts, losing him via a $32,500 claim in late June at Arlington. Zoran finished fourth in that start and had been 11th and eighth when Kirby took him back out of a fifth-place finish in September.

Questionable at the time? Maybe. But now, Kirby's move looks brilliant. Zoran won a $16,000 claimer for 3-year-olds in his first start this Hawthorne meet, moved up a little in class and captured a conditioned claimer in his second race here, and on Nov. 15 cruised to a sharp win over a decent field in a 3-year-old $25,000 claimer. Friday, in the eighth race, Zoran has earned a trip back into the allowance ranks and is one of nine horses entered in a six-furlong, entry-level allowance race.

Zoran breaks from the fence, but he had the rail last time and showed no aversion to coming inside horses. Of greater concern is the cyclical nature of racehorses: When form goes up, it must at some point come back down. And if Zoran regresses to a more typical performance level, he won't have an easy time winning his fourth straight race.

The pick in race 8, in fact, is Tricky Mon, a horse who has gone winless in seven starts this season, and is just 1 for 12 in his career. Tricky Mon surely is in some part responsible for his record, but there have been external factors, too. Take his most recent start: Tricky Mon was poised to make at least a minor stretch run in a Hawthorne turf-sprint allowance when a horse named No Fancy Title, who wound up being disqualified from first, nearly knocked him over. There have been other tough trips, too, as well as the lingering sense that Tricky Mon might be at his best on a fast dirt track. He hasn't seen one of those since his 2007 debut on June 10 at Churchill, where he finished fourth behind Grasshopper, who raced with top 3-year-olds in 2007.

Also worthy of win betting in race 8 is Prognosis Negative, who was razor-sharp in a maiden win here Nov. 24. Making his second start after an extended layoff and second start under the care of trainer Hugh Robertson, Prognosis Negative showed blazing early speed in a 5 1/4-length win over at least a couple of horses that looked decent for winter maidens at Hawthorne.