05/12/2006 12:00AM

Field looks strong on either surface

Four-Footed Fotos
NJC Cap winner Three Hour Nap (center) is entered main-track-only.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Not one, but two feature-quality allowance races made it onto the Sunday program at Arlington when entries were taken Friday. Race 7, with a couple of the best Illinois-bred mares in training plus the good filly Whimsy, would be a worthy headliner, but it is eclipsed by the race that follows it. The eighth is a high-end allowance carded for 1 1/16 miles on turf, and even if the weatherman's prediction of something approaching another Great Flood comes true, the Sunday feature should hold together.

In fact, on dirt, the race might be even better, since both Three Hour Nap, winner of the Grade 3 National Jockey Club Handicap, and Iosilver, one of the more talented horses stabled at Arlington, have been entered main-track-only. In the main body of the field are Air Academy, second in the Illinois-bred Milwaukee Avenue Handicap last out; Cosmic Kris, who almost upset Gun Salute in the Hawthorne Derby last fall; and perhaps best of all, Therecomesatiger.

Trainer Tom Proctor was circumspect when asked Thursday whether Therecomesatiger would start if the Sunday feature comes off turf, but since Therecomesatiger won his only dirt start, and is ready to run after 4 1/2 months on the shelf, it would be no surprise if he goes regardless of the surface.

"The main thing is we just want to get him through this first race back," said Proctor, who has given Therecomesatiger a break since a third-place finish Dec. 31 in the Pete Axthelm at Calder.

Therecomesatiger, who made his debut here last summer, has won 4 of 6 starts, and as Proctor points out, "the two times he lost, he got horrible trips." One of those was the Axthelm, where Therecomesatiger rushed up wide to contest a 45-second and change half-mile pace; he did well to finish third.

In fact, Proctor favorably compares Therecomesatiger with Purim, the graded-stakes winner he trains who won the Avers Wexler here Sunday.

"To be honest, I don't know who's better between the two of them," Proctor said.

Three Hour Nap was a game winner of the NJC Cap on April 22, but it is Iosilver who looks like a rising star. He won 4 of 7 starts last season, including his last four dirt races of the year, and he made a decent field of horses look silly winning the Nov. 19 Schaefer Mile at Hoosier Park by 16 lengths in his 2005 finale.

Purim points for Opening Verse

As for Purim, Proctor said he had exited his impressive win in the Wexler in good order, and tentatively was being pointed to the $100,000 Opening Verse Stakes on June 3 at Churchill Downs.

"We'll run a mile and a sixteenth once more, and if he does well, then we'll stretch him out a little, maybe look at the Arlington Handicap," said Proctor.

The Arlington Handicap, on July 22, is a 1 1/4-mile local prep for the Arlington Million.

Coach Jimi Lee still sharp

Coach Jimi Lee, it would seem, is just as good at age 6 as he was at age 5. That, at least, is the way things looked when The Coach, as trainer Jim DiVito likes to call his longtime stable star, won the Prairie Express last Saturday at Prairie Meadows in his first start of 2006.

Coach Jimi Lee contested a half-mile run in a torrid 43.80 seconds, then held on to win by a half-length over the good sprinter Semaphore Man.

"That race was awesome," said DiVito. "He just wouldn't let that horse go past him."

DiVito has a long-term goal for Coach Jimi Lee in the Aug. 26 Arlington Sprint, and the horse also will go back to Prairie Meadows to try to win his third straight Iowa Sprint Handicap in early July. DiVito said he'd like to find a race for his horse sometime between now and then.

"I'd like to get one, but I don't have to get one," he said.

Last chance for Nicole's Dream?

Nicole's Dream, eighth of 11 when trying to win her third straight Mamzelle Stakes on May 4 at Churchill, will get another chance in the May 29 Honor the Hero, a five-furlong turf stakes at Canterbury Park.

"She came out of it good," said trainer Larry Rivelli of Nicole's Dream's disappointing 2006 debut.

Nicole's Dream is 6, and has made 44 starts in a long, successful career. She was considered for retirement over the winter, and could be headed that route with another failure in Minnesota.

"We'll try her one more time and see if she fires," Rivelli said.

Ariel Smith switches agents

Jockey Ariel Smith changed agents this week, moving from Lars Becdelamotte, a former Wayne Catalano assistant, to the established local agent Penny Ffitch-Heyes. Ffitch-Heyes also handles business for Jesse Campbell.

"I think it will go well with the business I already have," Ffitch-Heyes said.