08/12/2003 11:00PM

Can Mitchell strike gold again?

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Joe Bear has never run in a graded stakes race, and his trainer readily concedes Saturday's Grade 1 Secretariat may be too much, too soon for the pint-sized Joe Bear. On the other hand, Running Stag got little respect in 1998 when he made the highly irregular move from European turf to American dirt, and he wound up winning three graded stakes in this country.

What Joe Bear and Running Stag have in common is their trainer, Phillip Mitchell, who is back at Arlington for the first time since Running Stag concluded his career with a sixth-place finish in the 2000 Million.

"When Stag first went to the Woodward, everyone thought we were crazy," Mitchell said Wednesday at Arlington. "But we knew he was that good."

Joe Bear has won three of his first five starts, but has never faced top horses. With two straight wins, both at the Secretariat distance of 1 1/4 miles, Joe Bear has come forward enough to earn a shot at the Secretariat's $400,000 purse.

"This little guy is moving up - we just don't know how much," Mitchell said. "He's still young. This could be a slot too soon for us. But he has a serious engine."

Joe Bear arrived here over the weekend, and after washing out his first day on the racetrack, he has calmed down the last two days. Joe Bear went to the gate Wednesday morning and stood nicely before breaking and galloping the better part of a mile.

"He's settled in nicely the last couple days," said his groom, Roger Teal, who also traveled with Running Stag.

Streak hasn't hurt Paolini's appetite

The German horse Paolini hasn't won a race in the last two calendar years. But winning, as they say, isn't everything.

Paolini's losing streak dates back to the summer of 2001, but in his last eight starts, which have come in seven different countries, Paolini has earned nearly $1.5 million, and he has career earnings of more than $2.4 million.

"He hasn't won, but he's always close to good horses," said Bianca Sieling, who traveled here with Paolini from Germany. Sieling, Paolini's exercise rider, was here with the horse last year, when he finished a close sixth in the Million, and two seasons ago she was part of the team with Silvano, who won the race. "As long as he's close in those races, people are happy."

Paolini is happy, too, especially when a feed tub is placed in front of him. Some horses look drawn and wan after shipping internationally, but Paolini, a 6-year-old chestnut horse, is blocky, bordering on stout.

"Wherever you go, you put him in his stall and he's shouting for his food," Sieling said.

Paolini, beaten just a half-length here last year, comes off an eighth-place finish in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes on June 18 at Royal Ascot. Sieling said Paolini, untroubled in most of his races, had plenty of trouble in that start. "He was bumped hard twice. It was no good," she said.

Paolini has been galloping on dirt this week and is scheduled for a work on the main track Thursday.

Longshot Kaieteur has easy breeze

Kaieteur was the lone horse in the International Festival to work here Wednesday, and as far as works go, his wasn't much. With the dogs placed far out in the grass course, Kaieteur was credited with a four-furlong move in 54.80 seconds.

Jane Allison, Kaieteur's rider, said she basically cantered the horse around Arlington's grass course. "I let him stretch his legs just a bit in the stretch," she said. "I just wanted him to get used to changing his legs [leads] around the bend."

Kaieteur is based with trainer Brian Meehan in England, and has raced in France in Germany, but he's an American horse. Allison said Meehan bought him as a yearling in Florida, and Kaieteur is by Marlin, an American sire and Arlington Million winner.

At odds of 100-1, Kaieteur finished third of 15 in his last start, the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes, and at age 4 he has room for further improvement. "He'll be getting better now," said Allison.

Honor in War in November sale

Million contender Honor in War has been entered in the November breeding stock sale at Keeneland as a "means of gauging his value," said Will Wolford, who heads the colt's ownership group, 3rd Turn Stables.

Wolford, a former National Football League All-Pro lineman who lives in Louisville, Ky., said he has had several offers for Honor in War but would prefer to wait until after the colt runs in the Million and Breeders' Cup Mile before making a firm decision.

"Unless there is a major offer from a breeder who would want to buy into the horse while we retain control of his racing career, we're going to wait until the November sale," said Wolford.

Honor in War, a 4-year-old by Lord at War, has earned slightly more than $600,000, with the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Arlington Handicap being his biggest wins.

The breeding stock sale runs Nov. 2-14.

P. Val books a last-minute flight

Until Wednesday morning, jockey Pat Valenzuela had tentatively planned on riding Saturday at Del Mar. But then Bobby Frankel decided to run Tates Creek in the Beverly D., and the mount on Touch of Land in the Million became available, leading Valenzuela to book a flight to Chicago from San Diego.

Valenzuela will be going for a second straight Beverly D. victory, having won last year aboard Golden Apples. Valenzuela finished first in the 1993 Beverly D. aboard Let's Elope, but the mare was disqualified in a decision that the jockey vehemently disputed.

Allowance race part of pick four

Besides the three Turf Festival races, the pick four on Saturday (races 8-11) also will include an entry-level allowance that drew 13 betting interests. "The field size led us to use it, as opposed to one of the overnight stakes," said racing secretary Frank Gabriel Jr.

Arlington has guaranteed a $250,000 pool for the pick four, which will have a 25 percent takeout. The Beverly D. will begin the pick four sequence and be followed by the allowance race, Arlington Million, and the Secretariat.

Three supporting stakes, each worth $50,000, also are carded Saturday: the Cigar, the Forward Pass, and the Safely Kept.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee