10/17/2002 11:00PM

Few early arrivals for the big dance

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It was business as usual at Arlington Park during training hours on Friday, but not for Breeders' Cup hopefuls, the majority of whom will not arrive on the grounds until early next week.

Unlike in previous years, most trainers have decided to put the finishing touches on their Breeders' Cup runners at home. With the Breeders' Cup just one week away, only 12 of the 104 horses pre-entered in the eight Breeders' Cup races are currently stabled at Arlington Park.

As of Friday, 31 of the Breeders' Cup pre-entrants were still in California, 25 remained in New York, 22 others were in Europe, seven continued to train in Kentucky, and the rest were scattered about several other sites from Woodbine in Toronto to Calder in Miami.

Evening Attire and Sky Mesa were among the few Breeders' Cup runners who did train at Arlington on Friday, both making very favorable impressions.

Evening Attire galloped an eager 1 1/4 miles and was particularly on his toes coming through the stretch. Sky Mesa, who is built more like an older horse than a 2-year-old, was feeling quite chipper in the brisk weather, playing and tossing his head about numerous times during his almost 30 minutes on the track.

The decision to ship in late can, in part, be attributed to the uncertainty of the weather conditions in the Chicago area at this time of year. On Friday, the temperature struggled to climb into the 40's during training hours and was not expected to get much higher over the weekend. Showers and even a few scattered snow showers fell the previous evening.

"The weather is definitely one of the reasons we'll stay here until Wednesday," said Bob Baffert from California. He has seven Breeders' Cup candidates, including War Emblem for the Classic. "As for the racetrack, either the horses are going to like it or they won't especially if it comes up real loose and cuppy on Breeders' Cup Day. If that's the case, then it won't matter if we'd been there for three weeks training over it."

In fact, Baffert is a proponent of moving the Breeders' Cup up three to four weeks on the calendar, no matter the host site.

"I think Arlington is a great spot to have the Cup and the horses will love the cold," said Baffert. "But I'd prefer to see them move it up on the schedule, because except for the juveniles it's been a long, hard season for most of these horses, many of whom have been pretty beaten up and are well past their peak by this time of year."

One trainer who decided to ship to Chicago well in advance of Breeders' Cup Day is Patrick Biancone, who has both Whywhywhy and Zavata pre-entered for the Juvenile.

"Everybody has their own philosophy," Biancone said Friday. "I thought we'd come in ahead of time and maybe get a little home-court advantage. And in this business every little advantage helps. It's a gamble wherever you train. Fortunately, we've been lucky, because they got a lot of rain in New York last weekend after we left, and then we got works in yesterday for Whywhywhy and Zavata before it rained here later in the day."

Construction on schedule

The temporary Breeders' Cup stands hugging the clubhouse and far turns have become an Arlington fixture since sprouting up in late August. Soon, they will even be fitted with people.

Arlington's extensive Breeders' Cup makeover is winding down to its final days, with the project running right on schedule. Wendy Wilkerson, project coordinator for the Colonnade Group, which is installing the temporary seating, said she expects even the fine details to be wrapped up on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday will serve as days to test all the technical work that's in the process of being completed right now.

The major structural work on stands and tents has been finished, and workers now are focusing on power installation, lighting, and furniture. "We're down to the last details, really," Wilkerson said.

The installation of tens of thousands of seats is a major undertaking even for a specialist like the Alabama-based Colonnade Group. Even so, the project has gone off with few hitches. "We've had very little trouble," Wilkerson said. "Arlington management has made things very easy."

Bonapaw takes it easy

Sprint candidate Bonapaw had his first trip back to the racetrack since his final Breeders' Cup work on Monday, jogging two laps around Arlington's nine-furlong main track under trainer Norman Miller. Bonapaw blazed through a five-furlong breeze in 57.80 seconds here Monday, but the fast time is typical for him, and Bonapaw exited his work in good shape, Miller said.

"I didn't expect him to come out bad, since he went into it so good," Miller said. "He looks good right now. Everything's on go."

Bonapaw will have one more day of shed-row walking before he resumes galloping Sunday. That's because Miller left Friday for a 24-hour trip to New Orleans for his son's wedding, and he's not about to turn Bonapaw's training over to anyone else right now.

"I can't trust anybody," Miller said with a laugh. "One day off won't hurt him."

Churchill work plans changeable

Like the majority of Breeders' Cup candidates, the seven horses who remain in Kentucky are scheduled to have their final blowouts over the next several days before departing for Chicago.

Several horses were to breeze Saturday at Churchill Downs, although those plans were subject to change because of weather. While Friday morning was idyllic, rain was being forecast in the region for as early as Saturday.

Orientate, a leading Sprint prospect for D. Wayne Lukas, was among those tentatively scheduled to work Saturday. Day Trader, also headed to the Sprint for Lukas, probably will work a day or two later.

Classic hopeful Dollar Bill also was penciled in for Saturday by Dallas Stewart. Meanwhile, Murray Johnson said Perfect Drift (Classic) probably would wait until Monday to work at the Trackside training facility.

Johnson originally had intended Saturday as the work day for Perfect Drift, but the trainer said the gelding had incurred a minor foot bruise that "set him back a couple days. It's really nothing big, and it's not going to keep us from running. It really is minor."

Three other BC horses also will work Saturday, Sunday, or Monday before departing in midweek: Take Charge Lady (Distaff), Westerly Breeze (Juvenile Fillies), and Lone Star Sky (Juvenile).

No rush to cross border

The four members of the Woodbine contingent for next Saturday's Breeders' Cup are in no particular hurry to get to Arlington Park.

Wando, a contender for the Juvenile, and Perfect Soul, who will go in the Turf, will be traveling together and are slated to leave early Wednesday evening.

Wake at Noon is scheduled to leave Tuesday or Wednesday for his engagement in the Sprint, while Chopinina is to depart Thursday for the Filly and Mare Turf. All four will be traveling from Toronto to Chicago by van.

Roger Attfield, trainer of Perfect Soul, will be saddling his 11th Breeders' Cup entrant. His best previous performers were With Approval, second in the 1990 Turf, and Play the King, second in the 1988 Sprint.

Wando will be the second Cup representative for trainer Mike Keogh and owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz. Langfuhr, sire of Wando, was unplaced at Woodbine in the 1996 Sprint.

Abraham Katryan, trainer of Wake at Noon, and Alec Fehr, who trains Chopinina, will be making their Breeders' Cup debuts.

But Chopinina will be the fourth Cup entrant and will be looking to become the first in-the-money finisher for the Knob Hill Stable of Steve Stavro.

Emile Ramsammy, who has the calls on Wake at Noon and Chopinina, is the only Woodbine-based rider slated to compete in the Breeders' Cup. Ramsammy's three previous Breeders' Cup mounts all finished out of the money.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh, Marty McGee, and Bill Tallon