06/23/2006 12:00AM

Cursora on fast track for McPeek


CHICAGO - Kenny McPeek finally got back into the win column last week, and on Sunday at Arlington Park he starts a filly he hopes will take him back into the graded stakes arena.

Ready for her U.S. debut in Sunday's $40,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile grass race, is an Argentine filly named Cursora, and this is no cull from a South American herd. Noted Japanese horseman Katsumi Yoshida, whose Northern Farm stood the great stallion Sunday Silence, paid big money for Cursora, a champion filly on turf last year in Argentina. The Possibly Perfect is a prep for the Modesty Handicap, which in turn is a prep for the Grade 1 Beverly D., and if Cursora makes the transition from Southern to Northern Hemisphere, McPeek said he thinks Cursora is good enough to get to the Grade 1.

"If she's good enough to knock this group out - and she's trained like that - the [Beverly D.] is absolutely the idea," he said.

McPeek himself is transitioning back into the world of training, which he briefly left last year. McPeek already had been making regular trips to South America to look for horses, and he decided to devote himself full time to being an international bloodstock agent. This spring, he returned to training, but Helen Pitts, McPeek's former assistant, has kept on with most of the old barn's established stock, and McPeek's new outfit has been slow to get rolling. Last Friday at Arlington, the Churchill-based McPeek notched his first win in his second go-round as a trainer, winning an allowance race with Star by Design.

"I know this whole thing has been a little unconventional, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time away," McPeek said.

McPeek came across Cursora on one of his southern adventures, and, by all accounts, Cursora has been a very impressive horse. She made her career debut about 13 months ago, and after two dirt races was switched to the turf, where she thrived, finishing second in the Argentine 1000 Guineas. She then easily won two Group 1 races, including the Gran Premio International Copa de Plata, in which she beat older horses as a mid-season 3-year-old.

Nine others were entered in Sunday's race, including Atlantic Frost, who finished second in the 2005 Possibly Perfect. Trained by Mickey Goldfine, Atlantic Frost is good enough to win, but hasn't raced since Nov. 5 and drew post 10.

And what would an Arlington stakes be without trainer Christine Janks? Janks has Chic Dancer for the Possibly Perfect, and Chic Dancer - 5 for 9 on the Arlington turf, and a winner in the Reluctant Guest Stakes here last out - has a chance to win.

Fifteen Rounds upset by nose

The Janks barn, however, finally suffered at least a minor disappointment Thursday, when heavily favored Fifteen Rounds was beaten a nose by Monkey Hill in the featured high-end allowance race. Favored at 1-2 in a race that scratched down to four horses, Fifteen Rounds raced without his injured regular rider, Chris Emigh. Arlington's main track was playing exceptionally fast Thursday, which accounted for the race's blazing final time of 1:08.79 for six furlongs.

"He just didn't seem to have that spark, and he seemed kind of flat all the way," said Janks. "That's difficult to say when they run 1:08 and three, and taking nothing at all away from the horse that won."

Monkey Hill, a 5-year-old Churchill shipper, ran a career-best race to win, though he has shown talent since he got started two winters ago at Fair Grounds. Monkey Hill now has won three of his last four starts, and will probably be pointed to an as yet undetermined stakes race.

"I think he's really matured, and with the minor problems behind him, the quality is coming out now," said trainer Tom Amoss, who pointed out that Monkey Hill's California-bred status could shape his future plans.

Pain keeps Emigh on sidelines

The word Thursday was that Emigh, whose 56 wins are by far the most of any jockey at this meet, would be back on his mounts Friday after going down in a hard spill during Wednesday's third race. Emigh, it turns out, was in far too much pain to consider racing Friday.

"I want to ride, but I can hardly move right now," Emigh said.

Emigh went down when his mount, Seadrift, either took a bad step or clipped heels going into the far turn of a sprint race. Emigh said he is still trying to piece together the chain of events.

"I remember two horses in front of me and one going wide. I went between them, and the next thing I remember is I'm down on the ground and there's a horse coming at me. From people I talked to, it's about 50-50: Some say I took a bad step, some say I clipped heels. I was in so much pain, I thought I broke my shoulder, broke my neck."

Emigh was found to only have a concussion, and was released after a trip to the hospital, but he said he can't contemplate a return to the saddle until the pain starts to subside.

"We're going day by day right now," he said.

Board sets hearings on state racing

The Illinois Racing Board has scheduled a series of hearings on all phases of the state's racing industry for July 18, 19, and 24. Specific times and locations haven't yet been set. The hearings will take place within the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

* Jockey Shane Laviolette won his 1,500th race Wednesday.