08/09/2002 12:00AM

Beat Hollow tops early Million field


CHICAGO - Two horses defected, one expected starter sat the fence, and a surprise participant was poised to join the potential field for the 20th Arlington Million when pre-entries for the race were taken Friday.

As of Friday afternoon, nine horses had been pre-entered for the Aug. 17 Million, including Beat Hollow, who led a contingent of five North American horses. Still, the total of nine was fewer than expected. The deadline for horses to be pre-entered was midnight Friday.

Out of the Million are The Tin Man and Tobougg, with the connections of Suances, who had been considered probable, still weighing their options.

Trainer Bill Mott might pre-enter Startac, considered an unlikely starter earlier this week. Startac drew poorly in post 11 for Saturday's Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga, causing Mott to consider running Startac in the Million instead, Arlington officials said.

Trainer Richard Mandella said The Tin Man is passing the Million in favor of the Del Mar Handicap.

The North American horses pre-entered by Friday afternoon were Beat Hollow, Falcon Flight, Forbidden Apple, Mystery Giver, and Sarafan. Four Europeans were pre-entered for the race: Cheshire, Freefourinternet, Paolini, and Ulundi. No longer a candidate for the race is Tobougg, owned by Godolphin.

Ulundi and Freefourinternet were to arrive here Saturday, Paolini and Cheshire on Sunday. Paolini is a German horse trained by Andreas Wohler and ridden by Andreas Suborics, who won last year's Million with Silvano, a more accomplished horse than Paolini

The connections that won the 2000 Million with Chester House - Juddmonte Farms, trainer Bobby Frankel, and jockey Jerry Bailey - have the favorite for this year's running, Beat Hollow. Though he was a troubled second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read in his last start, Beat Hollow is generally considered the country's top grass horse. Sarafan is the only horse to defeat Beat Hollow in the U.S. He beat him in the Eddie Read and earlier this year in the Explosive Bid at Fair Grounds.

Neither Falcon Flight nor Mystery Giver has completely been committed to running. Gary Tanaka owns Sarafan, who is trained by Neil Drysdale, and Falcon Flight, trained by Donald Burke. Burke will decide whether to ship Falcon Flight here after the horse works Wednesday at Del Mar.

Chris Block, Mystery Giver's trainer, said a final decision on his colt's participation will come this weekend.

Pre-entry is required of any potential Million starter and costs $5,000. Another $10,000 is due when official entries are taken Wednesday.

The Million post-position draw will be held after Wednesday's first race at Arlington.