05/28/2008 11:00PM

Anyone destined for stakes?


The Zen Handicap, an overnight stakes race for Illinois-breds scheduled to headline the Saturday card here at Arlington, drew only five horses when entries were taken Wednesday. Bye-bye, Zen. In the absence of the intended feature, though, Arlington has a trio of decent-looking grass races.

The featured ninth is carded for third-level allowance horses or $62,500 claimers at five furlongs on grass, and drew a competitive field of nine. The two turf-allowance races preceding it, races 5 and 7, are of lower class, but both have at least one horse who could turn out to be stakes-class.

In the fifth, a 3-year-old filly entry-level route allowance, that horse is Talkin Indian. Talkin Indian is by Indian Charlie, who is in the midst of his best year at stud, currently ranking 17th on the North American general sire list. Indian Charlie's runners have turned particularly potent on grass, and Talkin Indian won her career debut going two turns on the Fair Grounds grass course last winter. Second time out, she finished second to Much Obliged, a sharp winner of the American 1000 Guineas here Monday, and Talkin Indian looks poised to improve upon a pair of sub-par performances since leaving New Orleans.

The horse to watch in race 7, another entry-level route allowance, this one for males at nine furlongs, is Always a Believer. Recently shipped west from trainer Bill Mott's string at Saratoga, Always a Believer has not started since he won his career debut last summer at Belmont, capturing a one-mile grass race by more than five lengths. A 3-year-old, Always a Believer could wind up in stakes company with a good comeback run under Rene Douglas.

There are no standouts in the featured ninth, which could have Salt Syn as a mild favorite. Salt Syn has won a remarkable 6 of 8 over the Arlington grass course, but might be facing slightly tougher foes Saturday than she has beaten the last two years.

Among them is Bewitching Miss, who got good enough over the winter at Fair Grounds to finish a close fourth behind the nice turf sprinter Danceroftherealm in a stakes race.

"We ended up starting to take her a little further back, and she just improved off that," said Gail Bigelow, trainer Carl Bigelow's wife and assistant.

Bewitching Miss should have a quick pace in front of her, and fast fractions also could help Lisa M, who finished a decent closing third going a mile on the Gulfstream Park turf course last time out back in January. Lisa M has never tried a turf sprint, but might be able to adapt.

"I think she can get up," said trainer Dave Kassen. "She's got a lot of speed if you really train her for it."