05/19/2006 11:00PM

Arch Hall coming into his own


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The late-blooming Arch Hall and Kentucky shipper Alumni Hall head the strongest renewal of the Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse Stakes in years Monday at Woodbine.

Arch Hall, a 5-year-old owned by Melnyk Racing Stable and trained by Mark Casse, spent the winter with trainer Tony Reinstedler at Oaklawn, where he won a second-level allowance and finished second in two Grade 3 stakes. Last year, he got a late start to his campaign, and was in peak form for the Nov. 27 Sir Barton, scoring with a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 in his second straight victory in the Sir Barton.

Casse said Arch Hall has finally realized his potential.

"He's really come around," Casse said, noting that Arch Hall ran well at the end of last year.

Casse said that owner Eugene Melnyk "didn't want to put him away after just a few races" this year.

"He's Ontario-sired," Casse said, "but the way he ran in those last couple of races, he can handle open company as well."

Arch Hall breezed five-eighths in 1:01 on May 14 under jockey Patrick Husbands.

"Patrick said he's better than ever," Casse said.

Alumni Hall, a 7-year-old by A.P. Indy, won 5 of 10 starts in 2005, but is winless in three outings this year. He disappointed as the heavy favorite in a March 11 optional claimer at Oaklawn, but rebounded with a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland behind Wanderin Boy, who on Friday ran second in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special.

Robby Albarado will ride Alumni Hall for trainer Neil Howard.

Completing the field for 1 1/16-mile Eclipse are Cuba, Cryptograph, Just in Case Jimmy, Ablo, Alleged Ruler, and Twisted Wit.

Cuba, formerly based in New York with trainer Tom Bush, finished a close second in the 2005 Eclipse, and was also third here in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup Stakes in July. He was turned over to trainer Reade Baker earlier this year.

"He's not up to the graded horses in New York, and he's not a good shipper," Baker said. "He came to me in spectacular condition."

Baker said that Cuba had been entered in some allowance races, including the Eclipse prep, but that none of them went.

"I've had to train him up to the race," Baker said, "and it's not the easiest thing to do. But I've done the best I can."

Cryptograph, who captured two consecutive Grade 3 stakes here in the fall, is making his first start of the season.