07/09/2001 11:00PM

Jim Dandy and Haskell possible for Touch Tone


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - If a 7 1/4-length win in a $250,000 stakes race is any indication, yes, Touch Tone can run two turns.

Touch Tone's win Friday night in the Iowa Derby, only his fourth career start and his first route race, paves the way for the colt's imminent return to graded stakes competition. Owner Tom Durant and trainer Ronny Werner are weighing a trip to the East Coast, perhaps for the Aug. 4 Jim Dandy at Saratoga or the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park the following day.

But as of early this week, Touch Tone's next start hadn't been fixed. "I've got everybody putting him in a race for me but me," Werner said with a laugh. "We're exploring all the options right now." Those options include the July 28 Round Table at Arlington.

Touch Tone suffered the only blemish on his record in another trip East, finishing third in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge on June 9 at Belmont. He had begun his career this spring with wins in a maiden race at Keeneland and the Alysheba Stakes at Lone Star.

Touch Tone battled physical problems as a young horse. After a number of minor setbacks delayed the colt's career, Werner finally tired of waiting for the perfect moment and let Touch Tone run in a training race at Fair Grounds in March. He won so easily that day, and his reputation as an unraced wonder had been so firmly established, that Touch Tone was barely even-money in his Keeneland debut.

And besides the Riva Ridge, which was run on a lightning-fast, speed-favoring track, Touch Tone has looked like a wonder horse. His three wins have come by a combined 15 lengths. He had little trouble adjusting to route racing in the Iowa Derby, quickly settling into a relaxed stride for jockey Robby Albarado and bursting away from a solid field in the stretch.

Werner said the race took little out of Touch Tone, who vanned professionally back and forth from Arlington to Prairie Meadows. "He cleaned up all his feed," Werner said. "We're moving forward right now, that's for sure."

Before Touch Tone appeared on the scene, Wild Hits looked like Durant and Werner's star 3-year-old. But late this winter Wild Hits developed a breathing problem that required surgery. The colt came back May 28 with a good race in the Lone Star Turf Sprint, finishing second by a neck, and now is being pointed for a start at Calder's July 14 Summit of Speed. Werner said he was leaning toward the Calder Turf Sprint rather than the Carry Back Stakes.

Vance short on space, not on quality

Trainer David Vance would love to run horses at Arlington the rest of the the summer, but says he will only do so if the track comes up with a few stalls for him. If not, Vance said he would be reluctant to regularly ship horses from his Churchill base to Arlington.

But Arlington officials say there are no stalls. "People are claiming horses and I don't know where they're putting them," Dave Bailey, the track's racing secretary, said. "Maybe in feed rooms or tack rooms. We're full."

Vance originally was assigned stalls at Arlington but gave them back, he said, because it wasn't feasible for him to leave the Churchill meet behind when Arlington's meet began June 13. Vance applied for and was given stalls at Saratoga but also ended up declining those.

Vance has seven new horses in his stable for owner Roger Devenport, as well last year's 2-year-old filly champion, Caressing. Among the new Devenport horses is Unbridled Elaine, who recently was transferred from trainer Dallas Stewart. Last Thursday she won the Iowa Oaks by nearly nine lengths. "She was impressive, but the competition wasn't there," Vance said.

Vance still is getting to know Unbridled Elaine, a huge gray Unbridled's Song filly who won the Pocahontas last fall at Churchill and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont in her second start of the year. Unbridled Elaine was out of training this winter with an ankle injury that did not require surgery. In the Iowa Oaks, she raced with front wraps for the first time, but Vance said he was just being cautious, since he knew little about the racing surface at Prairie Meadows.

Ideally, Vance said, both Caressing and Unbridled Elaine would run later this month. He has targeted the July 21 Delaware Oaks for Caressing and said that the Monmouth Oaks, one week later, "could fit into the plan" for Unbridled Elaine.

Round Table next for Discreet Hero

Discreet Hero, who on Sunday easily won the Alydar, an overnight stakes here, is likely to make his next start in Arlington's Grade 3 Round Table. "That's the race I guess," trainer Al Stall said. "He ran two snappy miles in a row. It's worth taking a shot."

The "snappy miles" included the Alydar, which Discreet Hero won by more than five lengths, and a sharp allowance win last month at Churchill Downs.

Owner B. Wayne Hughes bought Discreet Hero, an Honour and Glory colt, for $155,000 as a weanling. After winning his debut at Fair Grounds, Discreet Hero lost four times in allowance company before his Churchill win.

Discreet Hero is bred more for speed than stamina, and the nine-furlong Round Table would be his first two-turn race. "He's just coming around," Stall said. "We have to figure out if he wants to do that."

* Graded stakes winner Chicago Six worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Monday. He could make his next start in the Washington Park Handicap here July 21.