06/19/2007 11:00PM

Business figures all healthy


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - As Arlington Park enters the midsummer phase of its 2007 meet, stretching the racing week from four to five days, business trends have remained notably positive.

Through Sunday, Arlington had raced 28 days, carding 282 races, and compared with 28 similar racing days in 2006, the track has posted significant gains in ontrack handle on live races, all-sources handle on live races, and attendance. The handle figures are slightly more complicated to interpret, since Arlington generally carded nine races per day last year while running one more day per week, and has been running 10 a day during four-day weeks in 2007. But attendance figures are straightforward (the number of races per day has no bearing), and Arlington is drawing nearly 30 percent more fans on a daily basis than in 2006. And even though Arlington had raced 33 days through Father's Day last year, total attendance still is up some 44,000 over last season.

By the same token, ontrack handle on live races - the kind of bet that earns tracks and purse accounts the most money - is tracking far ahead of last year. Comparing the two sets of 28 days, ontrack handle on live races is up almost 30 percent over last year. And again, the gross figure through Sunday of $17,099,169 is ahead of last year's total of $14,355,655 after 33 racing days.

All-sources handle on Arlington races has increased by 23 percent, to $4,021,822 per day, over the 28 days last year, and even taking into account changes between seasons, Arlington still is doing well. While there have been 5 percent fewer races run through Father's Day than there were last year, total all sources handle has increased by about $5 million.

Through Sunday, the average number of starters per race sat at 8.72, compared with 7.44 through the entire 2006 meet, and 7.89 through Father's Day 2006.

Kevin Greely, Arlington's racing secretary, said that entries could decrease slightly in coming weeks because of the switch to a five-day week. The hope, however, is that the end of the Churchill Downs meet in early July will supply more horses to make up the difference. Greely said that Arlington hopes to card 48 races a week, nine on Wednesday and Thursday, and 10 Friday through Sunday.

Modest field for Classic

A field of nine was entered Wednesday in Saturday's $150,000 Arlington Classic, the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple for 3-year-old grass horses, and while there may be some future stakes winners in the group, the Classic is decidedly light on proven stakes quality.

Just one of the horses has won a true stakes race: Beta Capo captured the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge in April at Lone Star. Others, like Tom Archdeacon and Pirate Saint, have won stakes of the overnight variety. In fact, the potential favorite, Vaunt, has never won a race of any kind after five starts in the United States. The English-bred Vaunt won his last two races in 2006 at Bath, a minor English venue, and has three fourths, a third, and a second since being imported. He will make his first start for trainer Bill Mott on Saturday, having been based until April with trainer Dan Hendricks in Southern California.

Others in the race are Pleasant Strike, Lovango, Starbase, Quasicobra, and Riverside Rascal. Starbase, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, has raced only once on turf, but exits three Grade 3 races.

Polysheba holds promise

There is no real feature on Friday's 10-race card, but race 7, an entry-level allowance carded at nine furlongs on turf, is a good betting race.

The nominal feature drew a field of eight fillies and mares, and they are far from easy to separate. It is, however, a good bet that for the first time in three Arlington starts, Very Vocal will not be favored. Very Vocal already has burned plenty of money this meet, finishing second by a neck at 8-5 on May 5, and a distant fourth May 31 as the odds-on favorite. In her most recent start, Very Vocal lost all chance by pulling hard early, and a one-start experiment racing with blinkers quickly comes to an end.

The pick is Polysheba, who finished second by a neck on May 12, her most recent start, and might do well stretching out to nine furlongs for the first time in the U.S. phase of her career. Last year in France, Polysheba finished fourth of 13 at the distance in a listed stakes at Longchamp, and her spot late Friday afternoon at Arlington surely will be less challenging than that one.

* Trainer Jim DiVito said Coach Jimi Lee was scheduled to make his next start on June 30 in the Iowa Sprint Handicap, a race Coach Jimi Lee has won the last three years.