10/20/2002 11:00PM

Hundred-granders surround Cup


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It has become standard operating procedure for the Breeders' Cup host site to stack its schedule around the main event, creating a short festival of high-class racing on Breeders' Cup weekend. Besides the eight Breeders' Cup races Saturday, eight more $100,000 stakes are on tap, three each Friday and Saturday and two on Sunday, closing day of this meet. Here's a brief look at how those races are shaping up.

Friday: Strong Gilded Time

Eight are probable for the Gilded Time for 2-year-olds at seven furlongs, and the group is a strong one. Cat Genius made his last start at Arlington, winning a Sept. 20 allowance race by almost 12 lengths, turning in an outstanding time on a sloppy racetrack. Cat Genius has continued working exceptionally in Kentucky for trainer Tom Amoss, and the sense is that he has been pointed to make a splash on Breeders' Cup weekend.

Trainer Wesley Ward thinks highly of Omega Code, who ships in from Santa Anita, while the Patrick Biancone-trained Prince in Command, a debut winner at Saratoga in his only start, outworked Juvenile contender Zavata here last week.

The Estrapade, for older fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf, should feature a deep, competitive field, with 14 horses from various parts of the country considered possible.

A fairly short field of about seven is expected for the John Henry, for older horses at 1 3/16 miles on turf. Jamaica Handicap winner Finality tops that field.

Saturday: Name horses on undercard

Several nationally known horses are pointing to Saturday's undercard stakes, and at least two of the races should come up strong. Balto Star, Generous Rosi, Hero's Tribute, and Rock Slide head the Black Tie Affair, for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.

Habibti, who was among the favorites this past spring in the Kentucky Oaks, heads the prospective field for the seven-furlong Safely Kept Handicap, a race in which Gold Mover and Harmony Lodge also will be well supported.

The Steinlen, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, is the weakest of the Saturday stakes, though Grade 2 winner Decarchy is supposed to make his first start since April.

Sunday: Eliza and Smile top day after

About seven 2-year-old fillies are expected for the Eliza, which is not as strong a race as Friday's Gilded Time. Trainer Steve Asmussen told Arlington racing officials Monday that Souris, winner of the Top Flight here, would point for the Pocohontas at Churchill rather than the Eliza. Asmussen may instead start Keeneland allowance winner Miss Listo.

The Smile, for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, should attract most of the best turf sprinters in the Midwest, with the East Coast-based Texas Glitter considered possible. Nuclear Debate could wind up in this field should he fail to draw into the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Sellout in sight

A Breeders' Cup sellout here is virtually assured, Arlington officials said Monday, with fewer than 100 tickets still available.

Breeders' Cup seats were first made available over the summer through a lottery system, and after an initial wave of purchases, sales have progressed at a steady pace. Neither the Breeders' Cup nor Arlington was certain the event would sell out, and had a significant number of seats remained unsold they would have been offered on Breeders' Cup Day. In the event of a sellout, no seats will be available on race day.

The remaining seats, all priced at $185, are located in an area of temporary seating known as Clubhouse Hospitality. The seats are in an enclosed structure and include food and beverage.

Besides Breeders' Cup Day, first post here this week is at 12 p.m. First post Saturday is 11:05 a.m.

Forecast: Dry but cold

Long-range forecasts suggest Arlington will get the dry weather the Breeders' Cup so desperately hopes for on Saturday, but temperatures should be chilly.

Monday, the National Weather Service's Saturday forecast called for partly sunny skies with a high temperature of around 50 degrees.

Moderate precipitation is forecast here Wednesday through Friday, but skies are expected to clear before the weekend, and Saturday's chance of precipitation is listed at only 10 percent.

Monday, the main track was fast and the turf was firm here, and a small amount of rain later this week wouldn't significantly change track conditions.

Attico iffy for feature

Attico would head a field of eight entered Wednesday in the $45,000 Hatoof, an overnight stakes for 3-year-old fillies at about a mile on turf.

But trainer Mike Stidham said Monday that Attico was not certain to start, since a race Wednesday would come less than two weeks after she scored a convincing win here in a second-level turf allowance.

"We're going to take a look at it," Stidham said. "It's coming back pretty quick."

Attico has displayed a strong stretch kick in a series of starts this summer, and might be able to outfinish her main rival, Delicatessa, who was second to older horses in an overnight turf handicap on Oct. 5.

If the race is rained onto dirt the chances of Strikes No Spares increase. A distant eighth in a 12-furlong turf race two weeks ago at Keeneland, Strikes No Spares was third in the Grade 3 Singapore Plate in her last dirt start.