07/06/2003 11:00PM

Ballingarry beats heat in victory


CHICAGO - As Chicago sweltered and thundered on a stormy Sunday, Ballingarry was basking at home. A day after winning the Stars and Stripes Handicap here - perhaps a turning point in his season - Ballingarry was back at trainer Laura de Seroux's home base at San Luis Rey Downs in Southern California.

"He's already out having a roll in the sun. I'm glad we got out of there, as humid as it was," de Seroux said by phone Sunday afternoon.

Ballingarry will continue training in California, but is expected to ship again for his next race. Said De Seroux, "We're seriously leaning toward the Sword Dancer" next month at Saratoga.

Saturday was a sweltering day here, but the weather couldn't stop Ballingarry from winning his first race this year, and first since a partnership including Chicagoan Sidney Port acquired him last fall. The deal was struck after Ballingarry won the Grade 1 Canadian International, but Ballingarry finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf and began his 2003 campaign with a pair of losses in California.

Saturday, Ballingarry returned to the type of turf course that best suits him, one with wide turns and some give in the ground. He stalked a solid pace under Rene Douglas, hit a hole while in full stride at the top of the stretch, and went on to a half-length win over the late-running Dr. Brendler.

"He showed nice acceleration," de Seroux said. "I hope he's returning to his best form from last year."

Cross-country shipping in heat can sap a horse's strength, but Ballingarry seemed surprisingly fresh Sunday, de Seroux said. "He behaved this morning like a horse marching into a race, not like one that had just run a mile and a half," said de Seroux.

Dynamic of meet changes

When the Churchill Downs meet ended last summer, it changed the demographics at Arlington. Arlington's meet was barely a month old. Stall space had been reserved for many Kentucky outfits, and as Arlington's Summer Festival and its higher purses began, the character of the season changed.

This year is different. Arlington and Churchill raced head to head for roughly two months in late spring and early summer before the Churchill meet ended Sunday. Management here elected not to hold stalls for Kentucky outfits. And the Kentucky presence for the festival, which begins Wednesday, will be weaker than the last two years.

Five Kentucky shippers were entered on Wednesday's nine-race card, but one is an also-eligible, another main-track-only in a turf race. Frank Gabriel, Arlington's executive vice president of racing operations, sees this as the impending norm.

"This is about what it will be like, I think," Gabriel said. "Some days it will be minimal, some days it will be plentiful. It depends on the kind of races we have. They're going to come for turf. They'll be hitting the overnight stakes, those kind of races."

New purchase looking good

Acquiring a racehorse in training is a bit like buying a fancy new gizmo. You can't wait to try it out, but will it work right?

El Ruller runs like a top. Making his first start since Bill and Suzanne Warren purchased him in Canada, El Ruller easily won an overnight handicap here Saturday and marked himself as a leading contender for the Round Table Stakes on July 26.

"He hadn't run since mid-May, so he had a right to get tired," said trainer Tom Amoss. "In terms of fitness, he's there. Now, it's maintenance. He was pretty aggressive early in the race. That's the kind of thing we can work on."

El Ruller wintered in Florida, but has been based at Woodbine most of his career. Twice this spring he finished second to Wando, Canada's best 3-year-old colt, and those races put him on the map as a prospective sales horse.

"The owner was interested in a 2-year-old, but the papers came over on this horse and I asked him, 'Would you consider a 3-year-old?' " Amoss said. "He said he didn't think so, but I sent him all the stuff on the horse. He was astute enough to recognize the potential."

El Ruller has returned to Amoss's string at Churchill. Amoss would not commit to the Round Table, but said, "He is nominated to that race."

Filly ships in for possible score

Trainer Paul McGee has shipped a horse from Churchill for the featured eighth race Wednesday, and she may return home with first money.

A third-level allowance sprint for fillies, the race drew a field of 10, and McGee's horse, And That's My Story, almost certainly is the quickest of them. Her last three running lines - two distant sixth-place finishes and a closer seventh - may put off bettors, but they shouldn't.

McGee has freshened his filly, and And That's My Story has notched all three of her wins when she ran fresh. A sharp half-mile breeze July 1 at Churchill suggests And That's My Story will pop out of the gate quickly and prove difficult to catch.