06/25/2003 11:00PM

Classic kicks off Mid-America Triple


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Grade 1 Secretariat lies two months ahead, but the race already is starting to look good. Saturday, the Grade 2, $175,000 Arlington Classic begins Arlington's loosely linked Mid-America Triple, the three-race series of 3-year-old grass races culminating in the Secretariat.

This race can stand on its own merits. From Kentucky come Remind and Rapid Proof, two-three behind Senor Swinger in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup three weeks ago at Churchill. Lismore Knight has flown here from New York for the streaking trainer Todd Pletcher. Adding flavor are two Irish imports, Good Day Too and European, who showed promise in foreign races this spring.

Owned by Claiborne Farm and trained by Bill Mott, Remind could be favored in the 1 1/16-mile Classic. Second to Senor Swinger in his last two stakes races, Remind breaks the turf horse mold: He runs along at a fast pace, often on the lead, and at his best can run the competition right off their feet.

Lismore Knight has the tactical speed to keep Remind in range, and the talent to pass him in the stretch. Lismore Knight has made five starts on turf and won three of them. One loss came on yielding ground over the sometimes tricky Keeneland grass course; the other was a second to Peace Rules, second in the Kentucky Derby.

"We liked him from Day one when my dad broke him at the farm," said Pletcher, whose father, J.J. co-owns Lismore Knight.

Lismore Knight was scheduled for the Hill Prince last weekend at Belmont, but Pletcher chose this spot when the Hill Prince was rained off turf. Lismore Knight is ready for it. After getting the winter off, Lismore Knight beat older horses in a May 17 allowance race at Belmont, running a mile in 1:34.20.

"We tried to bring him back so that he was ready, without asking for too much," Pletcher said.

The X factors are the Irish horses. In a listed race April 13 at Leopardstown, Good Day Too came within a half-length of a colt named Refuse to Bend, who won the prestigious English 2000 Guineas the next time he started. European has started his career with two wins, including a listed stakes triumph May 11, a race that led to his purchase by Team Valor Stables.

"He's a good-looking horse and he's done everything right," said Elliott Walden, European's new trainer. "All signs are that he's going to run well."

Completing the field are Lone Star Deputy, Ontario, Distinguishable, Scottago, and Herculated.