08/29/2006 11:00PM

Janks appears dominant in Matron


CHICAGO - If Christine Janks does not win the Arlington Matron Handicap on Saturday at Arlington Park, it will not be for lack of trying. The names of six horses were drawn when entries for the Matron were taken on Wednesday, and Janks trains three of them.

The non-Janks runners are Maggie Slew and Sea Siren, second and 10th last out in the Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park, and Take a Check, who ships in from Maryland with only 1 win from 8 starts this season. The Janks three are For Gillian, Stop a Train, and Sunset Kisses. Asked which horses she planned to send to the starting gate Saturday, Janks replied, "There's a good chance I'll run all three of them."

And why not? Maggie Slew is a decent filly, but she is a 3-year-old taking on elders and never has won a stakes race of any sort. Janks and her owners are breeders as much as owners, and a Grade 3 win or placing would look good on the resumes of any of these horses, besides adding a layer of value to others in their family.

"You've got to take a chance in spots like that," said Janks. "A graded placing means so much to their value and their future siblings' value. It's tough to pass up."

Only one of the Janks three has to beat one of the other horses to earn a Grade 3 placing, and the chances of that are strong. Facing competition from the Personal Ensign at Saratoga and the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth, this year's Matron has come up much softer than in recent seasons. The good mare Indy Groove finished first in the 2005 race, while even better horses - Adoration in 2004, and Take Charge Lady in 2003 - won the two previous editions.

Fifteen Rounds still footsore

Janks has started 21 horses in stakes races during this Arlington meet, and has an amazing nine wins, but of late her luck has been less favorable. Chic Dancer had to be scratched from the Beverly D. Stakes with a cough, and last Saturday, Fifteen Rounds was taken out of the Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint because of persistent soreness from a hoof abscess. Chic Dancer worked a bullet half-mile on dirt last week and is on her way back, but though Fifteen Rounds is in training, his foot is not yet fully healed, and until it is, Janks won't seek out a specific spot for the horse.

"We had to cut out an abscess, and he just hasn't gotten enough growth in the foot," Janks said. "He's got very problematic feet to begin with. Hopefully he'll come back to full speed again soon."

Nola Star's next up in the air

While Arlington's two final days of this meet are Monday, Sept. 11, and Tuesday, Sept. 12, those programs will come as an afterthought to what should be an excellent final weekend of stakes action here, with next Saturday's Pucker Up Stakes - expected to feature good shippers from both coasts - shaping up as an especially noteworthy event.

Next Sunday's Arlington-Washington Lassie, however, may have lost a key player, since Nola Star, who won a one-mile maiden race here Aug. 5 by more than 16 lengths, has been entered in Saturday's Bassinet Stakes at River Downs. Trainer Ken McPeek originally had said Nola Star would be pointed to the Lassie, and though McPeek said there still was a chance Nola Star could be sent to Arlington, it seems more likely she'll start instead on Saturday at River Downs.

"Right now we're planning on running there, but nothing's set," said McPeek, who plans to send a pair of maiden-winning colts in for the Arlington-Washington Futurity, contested along with the Lassie on Sept. 10.

Trainer Bob Holthus said Wednesday that his pair of Arlington-bound 2-year-olds - Officer Rocket for the Futurity, Lenaro for the Lassie - remained on target for a start next weekend.

"That's what we're planning on," Holthus said. "They'll both have a little breeze next Saturday."

Officer Rocket scored a blowout win in an overnight stakes prep for the Futurity, but Lenaro looked almost as good finishing a fast-closing second in her overnight stakes prep.

Three Hour Nap mending on farm

Three Hour Nap, who suffered a badly fractured foreleg during the running of the Washington Park Handicap on July 29 at Arlington, has been discharged from the Rood and Riddle clinic near Lexington, Ky., where he underwent surgery to repair the injury two days after the race. The gelding has taken up residence at the nearby farm of owners Ron and Ricki Rashinski.