07/21/2004 12:00AM

Ballingarry back for Handicap


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - If Arlington Million Day was what summer at Arlington was all about, why not have a warm-up? That was Arlington Park's thinking when it introduced Million Preview Day in 2001, and the multi-stakes program has come together nicely. The three graded turf stakes, the American Derby for 3-year-olds, the Modesty for females, and the Arlington Handicap for older males, were drawn Wednesday, with a total of 23 horses entered.

The race with the shortest field, the Grade 3, $250,000 Arlington Handicap at 1 1/4 miles, is the strongest of them. Seven horses were entered, including Ballingarry, who impressively won the Stars and Stripes here over 1 1/2 miles three weeks ago. Ballingarry's trainer, Laura de Seroux, originally planned to train her horse up to the Arlington Million, but Ballingarry bounced quickly back from his last start, and was on a plane from Southern California on Tuesday.

Bobby Frankel had six horses nominated to the Arlington Handicap, and last week he hinted that King's Drama would run, but the Handicap goes Frankel-free. The race did gain a surprise starter, the Bob Baffert-trained Senor Swinger, who was disqualified from second to third in the July 3 Firecracker Breeders' Cup, but won Opening Verse Stakes in his prior start. The others in the Handicap are On the Course, Mystery Giver, Grey Beard, Sharbayan, and Rowans Park.

"These are good-quality horses," said Chris Block, Mystery Giver's trainer. "It's a tough race."

While Ballingarry might be favored in the Handicap, de Seroux has a strong favorite for the Grade 2, 1 3/16-mile American Derby. Toasted, winner of the Arlington Classic the day before Ballingarry's victory, falls into that role with the defection of New York-based Timo, who is recovering from a foot problem. Cool Conductor was supplemented to the race, which also includes the Irish import Simple Exchange. Dermot Weld, Simple Exchange's trainer, has won the $250,000 American Derby two of the last four years. This is the American Derby's first season as part of Million Preview Day.

The Grade 3, $150,000 Modesty, a prep for the Grade 1 Beverly D., drew a field of eight, and there is no standout in the group. Bedanken returned to form with an easy overnight handicap win on this course last month, but Shaconage, a two-time Grade 3 winner this season, should be well backed. The others in the race are Blue Sky Baby, Aud, Ocean Silk, Beret, Delicatessa, and Julie's Prize.