06/23/2002 11:00PM

Jeremiah Jack tops Classic field, so far


CHICAGO - The best stakes so far this meet, Saturday's Grade 2 Arlington Classic, is shaping up the way it should - as the best stakes so far this meet.

The first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple, the series of grass races for 3-year-olds that culminates in the Grade 1 Secretariat, the Classic had five probable and many possible starters as of Monday. Leading the list of probables are Jeremiah Jack, who is training at Arlington, and Doc Holiday, a California-based colt.

Jeremiah Jack, who is scheduled to work on grass here Wednesday, made his turf debut May 31, facing older horses in a Churchill allowance race. There, he contested a fast pace but exploded in the stretch to win by more than five lengths. His time, just over 1:41, for 1 1/16 miles, was excellent.

"We had been able to practice on grass, so we at least knew he took to it," said trainer Tom Amoss. "But I didn't know he'd run that well."

Jeremiah Jack won the Texan Juvenile last fall and briefly was considered a Kentucky Derby hopeful. Breathing problems compromised him this winter and spring, but after two throat surgeries, Jeremiah Jack is tapping into his potential now. "Remember, at the end of his 2-year-old year, he was a little bit of a Derby contender," Amoss said. "Maybe what we saw from him the other day was just a healthy Jeremiah Jack."

European import Doc Holiday won the Grade 3 Will Rogers on June 1 at Hollywood Park for trainer Wally Dollase.

Also considered probable starters are Scooter Roach, Cappuchino, Seainsky and February Storm. Stone Mason, Patrol, Mr. Mellon, Quest Star, Camp David, and Robin Zee all are being considered for the race.

Round Table Stakes next for Windward Passage

Windward Passage has joined Steve Asmussen's Arlington string and is pointing to a start in the Round Table Stakes here on July 27.

Windward Passage breezed four furlongs here June 19 in 49.60 seconds, his first work over the Arlington track. In his last start, Windward Passage, winner of the Grade 3 Rebel this spring at Oaklawn, finished sixth in the Jefferson Cup, his first race on grass. In May, he was fourth in the Lone Star Derby.

"He just needs to get back on his feet right now," said Asmussen. "That trip to Texas knocked him out some, and he had a tough campaign. I think he'll show who he is in the next race."

Windward Passage was the colt bumped from the Kentucky Derby by the surprise entry of Danthebluegrassman, who then was declared from the Derby the morning of the race.

Mystery Giver will try open stakes

For Mystery Giver, it is onward to an open stakes race. For his older sister, Ioya Two, it is simply onward.

Mystery Giver won the Cardinal Handicap Saturday in a strong performance coming back from a layoff, while Ioya Two, trying to win the Lincoln Heritage for the third straight year, could manage only a fourth-place finish.

Since Ioya Two is 7 and bound for a broodmare career next year, it's natural to wonder how much longer she will race. But trainer Chris Block said that after watching the Lincoln Heritage replay several times, he feels Ioya Two, who can be temperamental, might not have given her best in the stretch run.

"I think she deserves another chance." Block said. That chance could come July 27 in the Grade 3 Modesty, a race Ioya Two won last season. If so, she'll probably race again on the same day as her 4-year-old brother, since Mystery Giver is likely to be pointed to the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap. Both races are part of Arlington's Million Preview Day.