07/16/2003 12:00AM

Flatter back in town


CHICAGO - The last time Arlington Park had a look at Flatter his star was rising fast. Flatter came to Chicago from Kentucky last August having won a Churchill Downs maiden race by almost three lengths, and he went home with an 11 1/2-length allowance score, leaving the impression a stakes career awaited.

Less than two months later Flatter was finished - almost for good. Flatter fractured a cannon bone during routine morning exercise last fall, a severe injury that necessitated two surgeries and a heap of hardware.

But apparently, Flatter heals as well as he runs. In the first start of his comeback, Flatter picked up where he left off last season, blasting to a fast allowance win June 27 at Churchill, and now he returns to Arlington for the Washington Park Handicap, his belated stakes debut.

"It was a terrible blow last year," said trainer Steve Penrod, who trains Flatter for Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.

"Nobody knows how an injury like that happens," Penrod said. "There was no way to know if he would come back or not. He had one surgery right after the injury, and they put in 14 screws and a plate. The plate was to stabilize his leg during his recovery. The second surgery was to remove the plate and screws."

Penrod said that attending veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage "was fairly optimistic from the beginning, but it's always been a day-by-day thing."

Penrod described Flatter's comeback victory as a "huge relief." In a 7 1/2-furlong allowance race, Flatter pressed a solid pace before drawing away late for a 5 1/4-length win. Now, in one swoop, Flatter stretches out from one turn to two and from an elongated sprint into a true distance race while he tackles stakes horses for the first time.

"This is a big step to take, but we don't have a whole lot of options right now," Penrod said.

Anyway, Flatter has overcome everything thrown in his path so far.

Honor in War to go in Arlington 'Cap

Honor in War, winner of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve this spring at Churchill, arrived at Arlington four days ago and is scheduled to start July 26 in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap.

Owned by the Third Turn Stable and trained by Paul McGee, Honor in War is slated to breeze on the Arlington grass course Thursday morning. McGee said jockey David Flores had been booked to ride Honor in War.

On the cusp of stakes success the last two seasons, Honor in War broke through with a 24-1 victory May 3 in the Woodford Reserve. McGee sent him to Belmont for the Grade 1 Manhattan on June 7, where Honor in War finished a close sixth, compromised by a boggy turf course.

"That was an absolute quagmire," McGee said. "I counted it up, and I think they ran about 17 seconds off the track record. He didn't run badly, but he just ran around the track."

Scottago gets another shot

Lismore Knight and Remind were surprise entrants at Delaware Park this weekend. Trainer Chris Block told the Arlington publicity staff Good Day Too has come up with an ankle problem and probably is finished for the season.

Those were the top three finishers in the June 28 Arlington Classic, and their absence is conspicuous as Arlington's Mid-America Triple for 3-year-old turf horses continues Sunday with the Grade 2, $250,000 American Derby.

So back we go to the Arlington Classic's fourth-place finisher, Scottago, who was beaten just over two lengths in the race and had little pace at which to run. Scottago returns Sunday with trainer Hugh Robertson hoping for a fair shake this time.

"Hopefully, he'll have some pace this time," Robertson said. "He breezed a good five-eighths the other day, and he's doing well."

As of Wednesday, a field of between six and eight was expected for the American Derby. Besides Scottago, those expected to start are Californian, Evolving Tactics, G.W.'s Skippy, and Gato Gato Gato. Rapid Proof and Ontario are considered possible starters.

* Proud Citizen and Full Mandate, considered possible starters in the Washington Park, are headed elsewhere. D. Wayne Lukas said Wednesday from Churchill that Proud Citizen would run next at the Saratoga meet. Trainer Steve Asmussen had no specific plans for Full Mandate, who won the Black Tie Affair early this meet.