06/29/2005 12:00AM

Guillaume Tell long overdue


CHICAGO - Guillaume Tell is coming to Arlington Park as the strong favorite for Saturday's Arlington Classic, but the man who helped engineer his purchase will be nowhere near Chicago. Barry Irwin, one of the principals in Team Valor, which owns Guillaume Tell, is half a world away in South Africa, where one of Team Valor's stars, the 3-year-old filly Irridescence, is running in the Group 1 Durban July at Greyville Racecourse.

"The Durban July is one of the biggest races in South Africa," Irwin said, reached by cell phone. Ipi Tombe, owned in part by Team Valor, won the race in 2002, and "Irridescence is third choice, so hopefully we can win it again. The plan is to run in Dubai next year, and then we're going to come to the States," said Irwin.

While Team Valor has regularly dipped into South Africa for many recent acquisitions, Guillaume Tell was bred in Ireland and initially campaigned in France, where he was purchased after finishing second by a nose in the Group 3 Thomas Bryon on Oct. 7 at Saint-Cloud. Guillaume Tell had earlier run well in a dirt race at Deauville, and the hope was to make the horse into a Triple Crown contender under trainer Todd Pletcher, according to a news posting on the Team Valor website. Guillaume Tell finished a fast-closing second on grass in his U.S. debut last winter, then was third behind Noble Causeway in a nine-furlong dirt race at Gulfstream, a decent enough effort, but not enough to convince his connections that Guillaume Tell was suited to high-class dirt stakes.

In fact, after near-misses in a pair of grass stakes in Kentucky, Guillaume Tell, for all his obvious talent, remains winless since being imported. Irwin just wants to see Guillaume Tell notch an overdue victory, which is why the horse is coming to Chicago rather than having run in one of two more lucrative 3-year-old grass races last Saturday, one at Colonial Downs, the other at Delaware Park.

"He's okay on dirt, but I think he's better on grass, really," said Irwin. "We're not disappointed in his ability; we just need a softer spot."

Guillaume Tell finished behind Rey De Cafe and Rush Bay in his last start; those are two of the better 3-year-old grass horses going, and no such rival appeared in the Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Classic when entries were taken Wednesday. Either Southern Africa or the improving Hole in the Head will be second choice, with Cosmic Kris, Gold Minister, Major League, Purim, Ready Ruler, and United rounding out the field.

Ambitious slate for Lord of the Game

Lord of the Game, the star of Tom Tomillo's stable, probably will run twice in the next two weeks.

The first comes Saturday in the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, which Tomillo only recently decided was the spot for Lord of the Game, the one-time $10,000 maiden-claimer who won the $100,000 Hanshin Handicap here in his most recent start.

Tomillo's long-term plan has been the July 16 Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park, and he sees no reason why Lord of the Game can't make both spots.

"He doesn't need a month and a half off," Tomillo said. "He'll be okay."

Lord of the Game has won 6 of 7 career starts, his lone loss a tough-trip third in the National Jockey Club Handicap two races ago. The Hanshin was a one-turn mile, and Tomillo said he believes the nine furlongs of the Cornhusker is a better fit for his horse.

"The two turns has got to help him," said Tomillo. "The only thing I'm a little bit leery of is it's under the lights, but that would be with any horse. But even being third in there, with the purse the way it is, is a good move."

Epicentre only entry from Frankel

Word out of Arlington earlier this week had Exterior and perhaps Vangelis going Sunday in the Stars and Stripes Handicap. Not so, trainer Bobby Frankel said Wednesday morning.

Exterior will run in the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park, while Vangelis stays home in California for the Sunset Handicap.

Coming to Arlington will be Epicentre, whose last win came in the Elkhorn more than a year ago at Keeneland. In his most recent start, Epicentre finished third in the Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs. Frankel said that Brice Blanc, aboard in Epicentre's last start, was likely to ride.

Epicentre is a true 1 1/2-mile horse, and both Vangelis and Exterior appear to be best suited for longer-distance races. So while Frankel has plenty of turf talent in his stable, he might not have a horse for the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million.

The 9-year-old Rochester could wind up the Stars and Stripes favorite. Other likely starters are Cloudy's Knight, Swagger Stick, and Revved Up.