08/16/2001 12:00AM

Hap faces distance test in Million


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Mott and Bailey - for racing fans, they're linked like thunder and lightning, peanut butter and jelly.

The success trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey have had together, especially teaming up in turf races, is legendary. On Saturday at Arlington Park, Hap joins the team, trying to give both Mott and Bailey their second Arlington Million win. Their Millions came separately, Mott's with Paradise Creek in 1994 and Bailey's with Chester House last year.

Hap, a 5-year-old Theatrical horse bred by Allen Paulson and owned by Edward White and Michael Paulson, has never won a Grade 1 race, and the Million, at 1 1/4 miles, will be his first start beyond nine furlongs. Despite both class and distance questions hovering over him, Hap will probably be the second choice in the Million behind Bienamado

Last year, when Hap excelled in races between a mile and 1 1/8 miles, Mott cut him back in distance in an effort to win the Breeders' Cup Mile. But Hap lost both of his mile races last year, finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup, and this season Mott decided to move forward, rather than backward, from Hap's nine-furlong starts.

"I guess I came to that conclusion after I dropped him back to a mile last season," Mott said. "He rates well, yet he's never completely out the back door in his races."

Winner of all three of his 2001 starts, including the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch last month, Hap has continued to train well at Mott's Saratoga base. "He's doing good enough to where we're optimistic at this point," Mott said.

Whether or not he is good enough, however, remains to be seen. Hap has won four Grade 2's, but has run only once in a Grade 1 race. And even in his best wins, he has never beaten an elite horse.

Even so, stand against Hap, and you're standing against what sometimes seems like an ineffable force - Mott and Bailey.

Undercard races come up strong

Considering their $60,000-added purses, the three undercard stakes on the Million card, the Buckpasser, the Safely Kept, and the Bet Twice, drew excellent fields.

For older horses at 1 1/8 miles, the Buckpasser brings out a pair of graded stakes winners, Nite Dreamer and Chicago Six, who top a seven-horse field. Neither, however, are in good form, and the sharp horse is Intern, who won an allowance here July 27 by almost five lengths.

The Safely Kept, for sprinting fillies and mares, is even stronger than the Buckpasser. Trip, Hidden Assets, and The Happy Hopper will vie for favoritism, though Hidden Assets is likely to be scratched on a wet racetrack.

Wild Hits, Fistfite, and Where's Zealous highlight the Bet Twice, for 3-year-olds at six furlongs.

European-breds find strength in numbers

Since only four of the 12 Million starters were bred in the U.S., foreign horses stand a decent chance to improve on their record.

Four foreign-bred horses have won the Million: Mill Native (1988) and Dear Doctor (1992) from France, and Tolomeo (1983) and Teleprompter (1985) from England.

This year, the foreign-breds are Caitano, Muakaad, and White Heart from England; Compton Bolter, Make No Mistake, and Takarian from Ireland; Redattore from Brazil; and Silvano from Germany.

Bailey to sit Beverly D. out

Jockey Jerry Bailey gave stellar rides to win the last two runnings of the Beverly D. with Memories of Silver (1997) and Snow Polonia (2000). But even though Bailey rides top contenders Hap in the Million and Mizzen Mast in the Secretariat, he won't have a chance to win an unprecedented third straight Beverly D. He is without a mount.

Chris McCarron, will have a chance to win his third Beverly D. when riding Kalatiara. McCarron's previous winners were Claire Marine (1989) and Flawlessly (1993), both for Charlie Whittingham.

New features on Arlington website

With oversight from Churchill Downs Inc., the Arlington website has been vastly improved in time for the Festival of Racing.

Among the improved features on www.arlingtonpark.com are the Daily Racing Form analysis, real-time odds and live audio race calls. For the Festival, there is a special expanded section that profiles the horses and connections in all three races, with added emphasis on the Million.

- Additional reporting by Marty McGee