06/26/2002 11:00PM

Jeremiah Jack a convert


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Since racing in this country revolves around dirt, campaigning a 3-year-old with talent revolves around dirt racing. You shoot for the Kentucky Derby, and if you miss there are countless other dirt stakes out there.

Good races are tougher to find for a 3-year-old grass horse - except at Arlington. Saturday's Grade 2, $175,000 Arlington Classic at 1 1/16 miles on turf starts a loosely linked series of three graded stakes for 3-year-old turf runners. Dubbed the Mid-America Triple, the series ends with the Grade 1, $400,000 Secretariat, the yearly grand prize in the division. This year's Classic has attracted nine starters.

Jeremiah Jack followed the classic model for an American horse. He showed talent on dirt late in his 2-year-old season, winning a stakes at Sam Houston Park, so the focus this year was on getting him to the Triple Crown. It didn't happen, and only after Jeremiah Jack finished far back in the Lone Star Derby did trainer Tom Amoss entertain the idea of a turf experiment. A breeze over the Churchill course went well enough that Amoss entered Jeremiah Jack against older horses in an allowance race on May 31.

The results were conclusive - Jeremiah Jack loves the grass. After battling through a fast pace, he opened up by daylight turning for home and never let up, winning by more than five lengths and running 1 1/16 miles in an exceptional 1:41.09.

"As soon as the race was over, Arlington popped into my mind," said Amoss.

Jeremiah Jack has undergone two throat operations to help him get his air when he races. "You wonder, is the throat ever going to come into play again?" Amoss said.

Jeremiah Jack probably won't get an easy trip Saturday. He drew post 1, and under Eddie Razo has little choice but to leave the gate running and see what happens. To his outside, California shipper Doc Holiday also will be showing his speed.

Winner of the Grade 3 Will Rogers at Hollywood in his last start, Doc Holiday must prove he is more than a sprinter-miler type. In his only race beyond a mile, Doc Holiday ran evenly in the stretch and finished second in the Ascot at Bay Meadows.

Dollase doesn't see Doc Holiday as especially long-winded. "I think he'll get the one and one-sixteenth miles, but I'm not sure now much farther he'll go."

Mr. Mellon, second in Churchill's Jefferson Cup in his lone turf start, will be running late.

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