08/29/2005 12:00AM

Fifteen Rounds getting stronger, more confident with each race

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Benoit Photo
Fifteen Rounds (inside) emerges victorious after engaging Elusive Jazz in a stretch-long duel to win the $150,000 Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint by a neck in stakes-record time of 1:08.51 under jockey Chris Emigh.

CHICAGO - Fifteen Rounds broke from the rail, was pinned on the rail, and had to run hard just about every step of the Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint, which he won by a neck Saturday. It was the sort of gut-wrenching effort that can send a horse reeling for days, even weeks. But Fifteen Rounds has seemed nothing like a gutted racehorse in the two mornings since the biggest win of his roller-coaster career.

"He came out of it very well, actually," said trainer Christine Janks. "It's just like he hasn't done anything, amazingly. I'm not quite sure why he's so much stronger now, but he is."

Fifteen Rounds has won five races at this Arlington meet, which began in mid-May. He won four in a row to start his career in 2003, looking like a sprinter with a bright future, but appeared to decline late last year and early this season. No longer. Three weeks after a brilliant allowance win, Fifteen Rounds set a stakes record of 1:08.51 in Saturday's six-furlong race. He has gained strength and confidence the last several months, to the point that Janks will consider sending him to Keeneland for the $250,000-added Phoenix Breeders' Cup on Oct. 8.

"He's not real adaptable to change, so if he's going to run well over another track, he's going to have to spend some time there," Janks said.

Janks said she is not currently considering a start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but if Fifteen Rounds were to win well in the Phoenix, the possibility of a trip to Belmont certainly would arise.

"You never say never, but there's never been a single thought of going to the Breeders' Cup," she said. "You can always change your mind."

Miss Terrible has rapid Matron work

Miss Terrible worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Sunday - the fastest of 60 works at the distance - in her final drill for Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Matron Handicap on the main track. Miss Terrible finished last in the Beverly D. Handicap, but was beaten only a few lengths and did not handle the wet turf that day. A graded stakes winner on dirt, Miss Terrible figures to be a top contender Saturday if she is able to produce her best form.

Other possible starters in the Matron include Diavla, For Gillian, Indy Groove, My Lordship, Pampered Princess, Provincial, Quick Temper, and Silent Siren.

Durban Thunder looks promising

Brazilian champion Durban Thunder made a successful U.S. debut here last week, winning a second-level allowance race at five furlongs on turf after bulling his way between horses in midstretch. Durban Thunder won by only a neck, but the margin of victory belies the strength of his performance, especially considering Durban Thunder probably is a miler, not a five-furlong sprinter.

"We've got some options with him," said trainer Helen Pitts. "There's an overnight handicap at Arlington going a mile and a sixteenth, or a couple options at Kentucky Downs, too. I thought he ran super. He's got a heart of gold."

Pitts said she feels Durban Thunder, a Group 1 winner last year in Brazil, can become a graded stakes horse in the U.S., "but we'll see whether it's going to be long or short."

Purim's schedule uncertain

Arlington Classic winner Purim breezed an easy half-mile on dirt here over the weekend, his first work since a poor performance in the Secretariat Stakes.

"I don't know what we're going to do yet," said trainer Tom Proctor. "We'll wait till he gets some more time. He went fine, just an easy half. We're kind of leaning toward running in the Indiana Derby, but I don't need to commit. He doesn't need to run too much more this year. We're just kind of in a holding pattern right now."

The Indiana Derby is run Oct. 1 at Hoosier Park and is a 1 1/16-mile race on dirt. Purim has raced on turf at Arlington this summer, but he won his career debut at Tampa on the main track.

Unbridled Danz still on for Pucker Up

Unbridled Danz suffered the first defeat of her career Saturday, finishing third as the odds-on favorite in an overnight stakes prep for the Sept. 17 Pucker Up. Even so, the Pucker Up remains the goal for Unbridled Danz, who appeared to exit her race in good physical condition, according to trainer Becky Maker.

"She still wants to run green, so we need to get her experience," Maker said. "She was wide around both turns, and she was a little green into the stretch. The combination of things, she just lost her focus."

Dearest Queen, who won the race by four lengths, also is being pointed to the Pucker Up.