06/09/2009 11:00PM

Communique winding up for summer

Photos By Z/Keeneland
Communique is using the Reluctant Guest as a prep to the Beverly D.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Some horses wilt in mid-summer heat, losing weight, losing interest, and losing their form. But the last two years, summer time has been the right time for the 5-year-old mare Communique.

In 2007, Kentucky-based Communique shipped to California and produced what was then the best performance of her career, a close fourth at odds of 44-1 in the Grade 1 American Oaks. The summer of 2008 went even better: Communique crushed a decent field in the Grade 3 Modesty at Arlington, then came back with a strong second to Mauralakana in the $500,000 Beverly D.

Trainer Rusty Arnold is hoping for a third summer of success with Communique, and will get things started here Saturday in the Reluctant Guest Handicap, a $50,000 overnight stakes to which Communique was supplemented at a cost of $500.

Communique was one of seven entered in the Reluctant Guest, but is the only one who may legitimately be using the race as a stepping-stone to the Beverly D. Not that a return to that race is close to assured - not the way Communique has performed recently.

Following the Beverly D., Communique finished third over a boggy Belmont course in the Flower Bowl Invitational, and little has gone right since.

"We were trying to get her to the Breeders' Cup, but she quarter-cracked after the Flower Bowl and we just couldn't get her right," said Arnold, who is based at Keeneland but has six stalls at Arlington.

Communique finished sixth in the La Prevoyante in December at Calder, and came out of that race with another quarter crack in her hoof. Arnold called the Hillsborough Stakes in March, in which Communique chugged home 10th, "a disaster," and Communique's bid to win the April 23 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland for the second straight year was thwarted by a numbingly slow early pace.

But Communique has worked steadily since the Bewitch, and it will come as no surprise if she rebounds Saturday and starts along the same path that proved fruitful in 2008.

Arlington in general proved fruitful in 2008 for Arnold, who moved his summer base from New York to Kentucky in 2007. Mainly shipping in from Keeneland for specific races, Arnold sent out 10 winners from 51 starters at the 2008 Arlington meet, and won three stakes with 14 runners.

"When I moved back here, that was part of the plan, to take advantage of Arlington," Arnold said. "We love the stakes program, and actually, I just I love being there - it's a great place to run."

Euroears getting ready

The immensely gifted Euroears is on the way back from his second leg surgery, but trainer Bret Calhoun said he's uncertain whether Euroears will be rejoining one of his strings of horses.

Euroears posted a three-furlong breeze in 38.20 seconds on June 4 at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, his first work since undergoing surgery late last year. An operation was performed on Euroears's right hind leg to remove two screws (and replace them with one new screw) that had been inserted to stabilize a fracture sustained in March 2008.

Euroears was the rage of the 2007-2008 Fair Grounds meet. He won three stakes that season, two on dirt and another on turf, to run his career record to 6 for 6 before suffering the original injury. Euroears finished fifth last November in his first and only start following his first layoff.

Calhoun said Jim Helzer, who owns Euroears with his wife, Marilyn, has a barn at Ruidoso, and is training Euroears there himself. Calhoun said Helzer had talked about racing Euroears in Southern California this year.

"I don't know if I'm getting him back or not," said Calhoun.

Calhoun originally had 20 stalls at Arlington this year, and seemed poised to have a more significant presence in Chicago. But much of Calhoun's stock remains concentrated at Churchill Downs, and Calhoun said he now has only 13 Arlington stalls for the rest of the meet.

"We've got a bunch of young horses up there," said Calhoun, who has not won a race from six starters this meet.

Calhoun also has two of the best turf sprinters in North America. Mr. Nightlinger, who looked sharp winning the $98,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint last month at Pimlico, is headed to Woodbine for the $200,000 Highlander Stakes on June 21. Chamberlain Bridge, who has won four turf-sprint stakes during the last 10 months, is bound for the $200,000 Arlington Sprint on July 11, a race Mr. Nightlinger impressively won last summer.

Lots of entries

There basically are two entry-level allowance races - one of the open variety, one restricted to Illinois-breds - on the Friday card, but both drew so many entries that they were split into two divisions. The Illinois-bred first-level allowance for Polytrack sprinters drew 16 entries and was split as races 5 and 8; the open allowance, at about one mile on turf, got 15 entries that are split between races 7 and 9.