08/03/2006 11:00PM

Aragorn unlikely to run in Million

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Chances have improved that The Tin Man, exercising on Wednesday, will ship from California for the Million.

CHICAGO - Aragorn, one of the top West Coast turf horses, was not expected to be pre-entered for the Arlington Million by Friday's midnight deadline, paving the way for an entry by another Californian, The Tin Man, as well as 10 other grass horses possessing varying degrees of stardom.

Though the connections of a pre-entered horse can get a refund with a veterinarian's certificate stating that their horse is unfit to race, the Million pre-entry list usually looks much like the field that makes the starting gate, since pre-entry requires a $5,000 payment. Another $10,000 is required when entries are taken Wednesday. The other two Grade 1 turf races scheduled for next Saturday, the Beverly D. and the Secretariat, also will be drawn Wednesday.

Aragorn's presence was expected to keep The Tin Man at home, but The Tin Man is now likely to come.

The Million also may be missing one of the leading East Coast turfers, English Channel. He was expected to be among the pre-entries, but trainer Todd Pletcher is not certain to send him for the Million. Pletcher also planned to pre-enter the much less accomplished Go Deputy, who could sub for English Channel if that horse stays in New York for the Sword Dancer Handicap.

Other horses expected to be among the list of official pre-entries are the Americans Better Talk Now, Cacique, Cosmonaut, and Major Rhythm, and the Europeans Ace, Phoenix Reach, Soldier Hollow, and Touch of Land.

The list of Europeans for the Beverly D. is down to one, Rising Cross, but that race still should be excellent, with a core group of Film Maker, Gorella, Honey Ryder, and Melhor Ainda. Others expected for the Beverly D. are Chic Dancer, Live Life, Minge Cove, Moscow Burning, Rich in Spirit, Royal Copenhagen, Sharp Lisa, and perhaps Wend.

The Secretariat field remains in flux, with only six solid starters as of Friday. They are likely favorite Showing Up, Go Between, Niagara Causeway, and Proudinsky, and the European pair of Ivan Denisovich and Primary. Green Lemon and Seaside Retreat remain possible starters.

Board hires track inspector

The Illinois Racing Board announced Friday that it has contracted Michael Peterson to conduct the third outside evaluation of the summer on Arlington's main track.

Peterson is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, and has long been interested in the dynamics of racetrack surfaces and the effect they have on horses. Last month, he conducted an analysis of Del Mar's dirt surface after that track experienced a rash of breakdowns.

Peterson has been called in because a board-sponsored inspection of the track conducted last month by Gregory Coon of Florida was compromised, according to the board, by improper contact between Coon and Arlington. Coon met briefly with Arlington president Roy Arnold before completing his report, and sent written recommendations concerning care of the track to Arlington. Those recommendations, however, also were sent to the IRB, and Arnold has characterized his interaction with Coon as wholly innocent.

The IRB, in a statement issued Friday, said that it would "not take any disciplinary action against Arlington Park in connection with these events."

Arlington, which brought in track consultant Joe King to examine the track in June, will pay for Peterson's inspection, which is expected to be performed late next week and coincides with a marked recent decline in the rate of breakdowns here. Since I Love Lisa broke down on July 1, becoming the 16th in-race casualty of the meet, there have been only two fatal in-race breakdowns during the last 23 racing days. According to Arlington, the two breakdowns have occurred while 1,542 horses have raced; the resulting average of 1.3 breakdowns per 1,000 starters is below the national average.

Arlington mixed pine bark into its racing surface early in July in an effort to provide a greater cushion. Also, greater attention has been paid to conducting prerace veterinary inspections on horses entered to race here, with the addition of a state-employed vet to the existing staff this summer.