05/24/2012 4:14PM

Arlington: Silver Max ready for Classic effort

Justin N. Lane
Silver Max, with Rafael Bejarano up, wins the American Turf at Churchill Downs.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Typically, Dale Romans makes his move later in Arlington’s series of stakes races for 3-year-old grass horses. The Romans-trained Kitten’s Joy won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day in 2002, and Romans won that race again in 2010 with Paddy O’Prado.

This year, Romans isn’t waiting around. Silver Max, whose most recent win in a sharp three-race streak came in the May 4 American Turf at Churchill Downs, tops a good field of 10 entrants in the $125,000 Arlington Classic.

“He came out of that last race in such good shape I think he’s ready to run back,” said Romans.

Silver Max’s career arc is unusual: At first he couldn’t win, and recently, no one has come close to beating him. A $20,000 yearling purchase who debuted in a $50,000 maiden claimer, Silver Max finished second the first five races of his career. He since has won 4 of 5, including three straight turf-route wins by 12 lengths combined. In the American Turf, Silver Max set a fast pace but never wavered.

“He’s steadily improved his whole life,” Romans said. “We always thought he could run a little bit, but he wasn’t as focused as he needed to be, more mentally than physically. As far as distance, he hasn’t shown any limitations. Hopefully he can go a mile and a quarter. We’re thinking about the Secretariat.”

Silver Max has only won on fast, firm turf courses but should get those same conditions Saturday: Arlington has had little recent rain, and the temperature there will hit 90 a couple of times this week.

Still, Silver Max, who might take pace pressure from Street Serenade, meets capable opponents. All Stormy finished a good closing second in his turf debut two starts ago at Fair Grounds and beat older allowance horses last out on the Hawthorne grass course.

“We always thought he’d be a turf horse,” said trainer Greg Geier. “He’s had three good works since his last start. I think he’s ready to run big.”

Sachem Spirit, who has raced only in turf routes, was second in his career debut before wins over maidens and first-level allowance foes, and while he led in his those two wins, Sachem Spirit might turn out to be a better off stalking a target.

“Those races where he found himself on the lead, it was the result of circumstance,” said trainer Neil Howard. “I think he can settle a little bit.”

Najjaar, who races on turf for the first time since last summer, was among the more promising 3-year-olds at Oaklawn this winter, but could finish only seventh in the Arkansas Derby.

“We were just flat there,” said trainer Dan Peitz. “I gave him time to get his energy back, and now we just want to get a positive race out of him.”