05/18/2006 11:00PM

Bigger fields may be on way

Benoit & Associates
Fifteen Rounds (right), winning the Arlington BC Sprint, could run next in the Hanshin or the Aristides.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Thursday was one of those days for the Arlington Park racing office: a long, hard slog to put together Sunday's nine-race card. The entry box closed late, and even after several hours of hustling, just 66 horses were entered, barely more than seven per race. The featured sixth, a second-level allowance at one mile on dirt, did not escape the general shortfall, either. A total of seven went into the race, including a coupled entry from trainer Wayne Catalano, who figures to scratch either Omaggio or Timbucslew.

Still, brighter entry days probably lie ahead. The Chicago area is coming out of a weeklong spell of rain, limiting training on several days, and Sunday's card was the first day of new Arlington racing secretary Kevin Greely's second condition book.

"Yesterday was a little tougher to fill," Greely said Friday, "but I thought we were on a roll until the rain came. It rained for so long, horses couldn't work, but if you look at the recent work tab . . ."

Indeed, morning activity here has been positively hectic much of this week. A total of 110 horses worked Friday, 175 worked Wednesday, and another 134 worked Tuesday. Even on Monday, when the track still was muddy, causing more cautious trainers to go light, 66 horses worked.

Workouts are essential in judging Omaggio if Catalano elects to run him in the Sunday feature. Omaggio is a four-time winner, but has only one third-place finish to show from five dirt starts. That said, Omaggio has trained smartly on the Arlington main track, posting three sharp works since shipping north from Florida. Timbucslew, the other Catalano entry, is all dirt, but having won only a $5,000 starter allowance in his last race, he could be tested for class in a second-level Arlington allowance.

If not one of the Catalanos, then maybe Battle Tank, who surely wasn't at his best going nine furlongs on turf here May 10, but still finished fourth.

Alabama Clay rising quickly

The Illinois-bred male sprint division appeared to gain a new stakes player Thursday, when Alabama Clay won for the third time in a row. Alabama Clay, trained by Spanky Broussard for owners Shari and Michael Brickman, captured an Illinois-bred second-level allowance race March 31, an open third-level allowance April 28, and on Thursday he won a fourth-level allowance by five lengths without appearing to turn a hair.

A natural spot for Alabama Clay would be the White Oak Handicap for Illinois-breds at six furlongs here June 24, but Broussard said he doesn't intend to show his cards right now. Asked Friday where Alabama Clay might next show up, Broussard said, "I have no idea. I plead the Fifth Amendment. I might incriminate myself."

Trainer Terrel Gore, however, has picked a spot for Bluesbdancing, who sits atop the Illinois-bred female sprint division. Gore said Bluesbdancing, who passed an open overnight stakes race here Saturday, would start June 2 in the Your Ladyship, an overnight sprint stakes for Illinois-bred females. Then, it's on to the Isaac Murphy on June 24.

Fifteen Rounds not a lock for Hanshin

Fifteen Rounds beat back the challenge of Straight Line in an overnight stakes here opening weekend, but a rematch in the Hanshin Handicap next week may not be in the offing.

Trainer Christine Janks nominated three horses to the May 27 Hanshin, the first graded stakes at this meet, and Fifteen Rounds is one of them. But the Hanshin is just one of three possibilities for Fifteen Rounds, Janks said.

"There's the Hanshin, there's [the June 3 Aristides] in Kentucky, and there's waiting to run him a while," Janks said.

The last option might have been the leading one until the last couple of days, when Fifteen Rounds "started acting like he was ready to do something again," Janks said. Fifteen Rounds is scheduled to breeze Sunday, after which Janks will begin firming up plans.

* Trainer Jim Chapman, who was given an entire barn for the meet, will not be stabled here this summer, and the stalls assigned him have been reallocated.