06/12/2001 11:00PM

Chicago Six looks to rebound


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Trainer J.R. Smith Sr. said Wednesday morning that Chicago Six could still be entered Thursday in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"We've got till tomorrow to decide," Smith said from his Arlington barn.

Chicago Six, the 6-year-old former claimer who Smith molded into a graded stakes winner, comes off his worst race in years. He finished fifth, beaten more than 18 lengths, in the Hawthorne Gold Cup last month. Before that race, Chicago Six had won five straight starts, a streak that culminated with a win in the Grade 3 National Jockey Club Handicap in April.

It seemed possible that Chicago Six struggled in the Gold Cup for a number of reasons: He faced the strongest field he had ever met, and his most obviously impressive races had come over the Sportsman's Park racing surface, where he won the NJC Handicap.

But Smith remains convinced that an unplanned change in tactics by jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. cost Chicago Six dearly in the Gold Cup. Smith wanted Chicago Six to stay in touch with the early pace, but "the [jockey] grabbed a hold of him like this," Smith said, leaning far back and pulling hard with his hands. "He pulled so hard that his mouth came wide open from the bit."

Smith said Chicago Six "tends to get a little hot," and he worries about racing him on a hot day at Churchill. If Chicago Six were to go in the race, he could emulate another Smith claim, Recoup the Cash, who won the Stephen Foster on his way to a $1 million career.

Smith said he had not chosen an alternative race for Chicago Six if the horse passed the Churchill race this weekend.

Block ready to rock

Trainer Chris Block won 30 races at Arlington's meet last year, finishing second in the trainer standings. In more than five months of racing this year, Block has won nine.

Not to worry. It is not a slump, but a master plan that has led to Block's numbers so far this season. Arlington was his target all along, and Block should have a typically strong summer.

Block has about 30 horses in training at Arlington, some for outside owners such as Dick Duchossois, and many for his family, which races under the stable name Team Block. Block wintered at Gulfstream Park, but doesn't run his horses hard there, instead preserving their form and conditions for the summer. He started a handful of horses at Hawthorne, but clearly has been pointing for this meet with his best stock.

"Last year we were hoping to win 15 or 20," Block said Wednesday. "To win 30 was incredible. But it's going to be harder to win races here this year. There are a lot of good trainers around."

Older turf standbys Reno Rumble and Ioya Two are ready to run for him at Arlington, and Block said he has the good sprinter-miler Davey's Cutlass ready for the White Oak Handicap on June 23. Davey's Cutlass, an Illinois-bred by Rubiano, won the White Oak last summer, but has been sidelined since undergoing surgery to remove bone chips in his knees.

Hollendorfer forced to alter jockey lineup

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had to shuffle his jockey lineup when Frank Alvarado, who was named on all five Hollendorfer entries Wednesday and Thursday, went down with a rib injury sustained in a race Sunday at Bay Meadows.

But Hollendorfer, who picked up Ray Sibille and Mark Guidry to ride his first few horses, was unconcerned Wednesday. "There are a lot of good riders here," he said.

Alvarado's agent, Brad Pegram, said earlier this week that he expected the rider to miss about a week of mounts, but Hollendorfer seemed skeptical about that. "Rib injuries can be very painful," he said. "I told him to take his time."

Six slated to run in Chicago Breeders' Cup

Six horses seem likely to enter Saturday's $150,000 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap, the first stakes race at this meet. A Grade 3, the Chicago BC is for fillies and mares at seven furlongs, and the race has attracted top performers in the past, including such standout sprinters at Safely Kept.

On Saturday trainer Bernie Flint may start the favorite in the Chicago BC, but who exactly that is remains to be revealed. Flint told racing officials here that he would run one of two fillies, Swept Away or Hidden Assets, who were assigned the two highest weights in the race.

Both come off uncharacteristically poor starts. Swept Away finished eighth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Genuine Risk at Belmont, while Hidden Assets struggled over a muddy track and finished last as the odds-on favorite in the the Regal Rumor Stakes at Hawthorne.

If it is Hidden Assets that runs, Rose of Zollern could vie for favoritism. Rose of Zollern trains at Churchill with trainer Bill Mott's string of horses there, and comes off an easy win in a high-end allowance race.

Others scheduled to race are Linda Love, Please Sign In, and The Happy Hopper.