06/30/2003 11:00PM

Apt to Be delivers breakout victory

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CHICAGO - Late Sunday afternoon, as Apt to Be turned into the stretch of the Hanshin Cup, the trainer Chris Block was getting into a good rhythm: shout, lean, pump fists; shout, lean, pump fists; shout, lean . . .

Standing in the box of Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois, Apt to Be's owner, Block seemed to be riding Apt to Be harder than jockey Eddie Razo.

"I wanted that horse to win yesterday so badly," Block said Monday morning. "For Mr. D., yes, but even more for the horse. He's a real tiger. He's always been one of my favorites."

Between Block, Razo, and mostly Apt to Be himself, the others in the Hanshin had no chance. Apt to Be, at age 6 and recording his first graded stakes win, won off by seven lengths, getting the mile in a strong 1:34.40.

The breakout victory was a long time coming. Apt to Be first showed talent three years ago, but nagging injuries and a limited opportunity kept him from fulfilling his potential. Block found himself stopping and starting with Apt to Be as he worked to keep the horse fresh and healthy. And as time went on, Apt to Be revealed himself to be a "'tweener," a horse that is neither a sprinter nor a router.

What Apt to Be likes is Arlington's one-turn mile, and the Hanshin played to his strength.

"He's run some big races before, but never anything like this," Block said.

The question now is, what comes next? There are no obvious spots for Apt to Be the rest of this meet, but Block isn't worrying about that for a few weeks. "The thought hasn't really crossed my mind," he said. "He needs a little bit of a back-off period now. He could use 30 days."

Irish import Good Day Too joins Block barn

Joining Apt to Be in Block's barn this week is Good Day Too, the recent Irish import who finished third Saturday in the Grade 2 Arlington Classic.

"He was a little tired out of this race," Block said Monday. "Today, he seemed a lot brighter than he did yesterday, and it looks like he'll bounce back okay."

Owner Ross Gilbert purchased Good Day Too this spring and ran him twice in Ireland before bringing the colt to the U.S. for Arlington's Mid-America Triple. Good Day Too, a strapping bay 3-year-old, made his overseas trip only six days before the Classic, in which he pressed the pace and held well to finish third of 10.

Block said Good Day Too probably would race next in the July 20 American Derby and, if he performs adequately, point for the Secretariat here Aug. 16.

"If everything's okay with him, the idea is to attempt to run in all three of the races," Block said.

Square Wheels goes for second straight

Square Wheels, a half-brother to the local handicap standout Chicago Six, shoots for his second straight victory in Arlington's featured eighth race Thursday.

Square Wheels, a Duchossois homebred, is by Affirmed and out of the mare Secretaridge, the dam of Chicago Six, who starred on this circuit two and three seasons ago. Square Wheels lost his career debut here May 29, but figured things out three weeks later, when he won his maiden versus Illinois-breds by four lengths.

Square Wheels sticks with statebred horses for his first try against other winners, and trainer Gene Cilio's run of good fortune is holding. Cilio, who had a successful June to reach second place in the trainer standings, has found a soft spot for Square Wheels, who still has much learning to do. The main competition in this 1 1/8-mile dirt race should come from A Genius for Place, who drew off to win his maiden here June 13 by more than 14 lengths.

Louie Roussel, owner and trainer of A Genius for Place, has been as hot as Cilio. Through the weekend, the Roussel barn had won with 10 of 24 starters at the meet.

A Genius for Place took advantage of a speed-favoring track in his last start, and on Thursday will be asked to carry his speed around two turns for the first time.

* Saturday's stakes here is the Stars and Stripes, a 12-furlong turf handicap for older horses.