07/05/2005 12:00AM

Chicago steals show in Iowa

Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Whimsy, Carlos Marquez Jr. up, scores a 2 3/4-length victory in Friday's Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows. She is 2 for 2 in two-turn races.

CHICAGO - It would've been understandable if last weekend at Prairie Meadows a racing fan stared around confused, thinking this must be Chicago, for Prairie Meadows's midsummer frenzy of stakes racing looked like Arlington Park west.

Chicago-based horses won five of the eight stakes offered during the four-day Iowa Festival of Racing; two more Chicagoans lost as favorites, and a third finished a surprising second in the Iowa Derby.

Score one for the visiting team.

Leading the charge was Lord of the Game, who might now rank as one of the great claims in the history of the sport. Take a quick tour through his race record: made his debut Dec. 31 and was claimed in a $10,000 maiden-claimer at Hawthorne; won an entry-level allowance; won a second-level allowance, then a third-level, then a fourth-level; finished third in the National Jockey Club Handicap; won the Grade 3 Hanshin Handicap; and on Saturday night, won the Grade 2, $300,000 by a head.

That makes more than $330,000 in purses and 6 wins in 7 starts since trainer Tom Tomillo claimed Lord of the Game for owner Bill Slevin's Two Blondes Inc.

In the Cornhusker, Lord of the Game was wide on both turns and gutted out a victory in a blanket finish, but Tomillo said the horse had shown no signs of fatigue after the race and was on target to race again July 16 in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Canterbury Park.

"I'm going to run him in the Claiming Crown, and then we'll decide what to do after that," Tomillo said. "He was perfect the morning after he ran. He was playing around and feeling good. After that tough race I thought he would be hanging his head, but he wasn't."

Asked to describe his feelings after Saturday night's victory, Tomillo said, "It made me excited. It's like hitting the lottery."

Other Arlington-based Prairie Meadows winners were Injustice and Coach Jimi Lee, who won Monday sprint stakes; Whatsitgonnatake, who won the Prairie Gold Lassie for 2-year-old fillies; and Whimsy, who won the .

The 3-year-old filly Whimsy has shown as much will to win as Lord of the Game, with victories in 5 of her 6 starts. Friday, she ran her record to 2 for 2 at two turns after a 2 3/4-length win in the Grade 3 Oaks. Whimsy earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest of her career.

Whimsy, a Pin Oak Stable homebred, suffered her lone defeat at Arlington, when she was third in an overnight handicap May 14.

"She just keeps on going," said trainer Mike Stidham. "If she didn't have a trainer that thought she should back up to three-quarters of a mile, she would be undefeated."

Whimsy defeated heavily favored Cee's Irish at Prairie Meadows and might have earned a shot at top-class 3-year-old fillies in her next start, though Stidham said no specific plans have been made.

"We're going to nominate to some big game and some little game, and see who's going where," Stidham said.

Friday at Arlington, Stidham sent out an impressive 2-year-old filly, Party Planner, who was bet down to favoritism and won a fast five-furlong race. Party Planner could run back in an overnight stakes here, while the older turf mare Tisket a Tasket is being pointed to the Modesty Handicap, Stidham said.

Purim probably staying put

Purim won his stakes debut in the on Saturday, and trainer Tom Proctor said he has no plans, and no need, to hit the road anytime soon.

"We'll probably stick around here for the American Derby, it looks like," Proctor said Tuesday.

Another step forward, and Purim will begin to look like a contender for the final leg in Arlington's series of 3-year-old grass races, the Grade 1 Secretariat. On Saturday, following easy wins in a six-furlong maiden race on dirt at Tampa Bay and an entry-level turf allowance race at Churchill, Purim stalked the pace, pounced in the stretch, and won the Classic by 2 1/2 lengths. His time of 1:42.60 for 1 1/16 miles on grass earned a 91 Beyer, and Purim looked good before, during, and after the race.

"He was the bear in the paddock the other day, but there will be some other bears coming up next time," Proctor said. "We thought about it a lot, whether to run there or not, but in hindsight, maybe it was the perfect spot."

Catalano sends out a couple

Midway through the Arlington meet, trainer Wayne Catalano is humming along with a 41-percent win rate, with 30 victories from his first 73 starters. That total would place Catalano fourth in the Arlington jockey standings.

Catalano runs two horses on Thursday's Arlington card: Sum of it All, the likely favorite in a $10,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer that goes as race 5; and Wise Diplomat, one of the contenders in the featured eighth race, a second-level allowance at a mile on dirt.

Wise Diplomat was purchased privately out of California earlier this year and won an entry-level allowance here in his first start under Catalano's care. He is in fairly deep Thursday, however, with several horses - including Kuch and Battle Tank - as serious players in a nine-horse field.