07/09/2002 11:00PM

Late arrivals have stalls nearing capacity

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It's a strange thing, having a partner as a rival. But with the closing of the Churchill Downs meet Sunday, Arlington's battle to put out a good product just became easier.

Arlington and Churchill Downs both are part of Churchill Downs Inc., but while they're on the same page, the two tracks depend on many of the same stables to fill races while their meets overlap. At the beginning of this meet, in early June, empty stalls littered the Arlington backstretch, many in the barns of trainers whose strings split between Chicago and Kentucky. But gradually those stalls have filled up, and with a final surge this week Arlington's backstretch is nearly full.

Frank Gabriel, vice president of racing and operations here, said there were about 2,020 horses at Arlington as of Wednesday, only 80 fewer than capacity. Gabriel said he also expects the number of horses shipping here from Churchill on a free shuttle to begin increasing, though it may take a week or so before that trend becomes apparent.

And Arlington can use the extra horseflesh. While races have filled well some days, there have been occasions where the entry process has dragged on late into the afternoon.

"Hopefully, this gives you that extra so that a six-horse field becomes an eight, or an eight becomes a 10," Gabriel said.

Summer Mis sharp in work

Summer Mis, standout winner of the Purple Violet Stakes on the Prairie State Festival for Illinois-breds, is being pointed to the Aug. 10 Singapore Plate, a Grade 3 for 3-year-old fillies. How she will get there remains uncertain, but Summer Mis showed she's still sharp with a blazing 46.40-second half-mile work here Tuesday.

Trainer Tony Mitchell had hoped Summer Mis would work slower, but said the filly had come out of the work in good shape. "I was worried she'd be tired after going that fast," Mitchell said. Jockey Randy Meier wasn't available to work Summer Mis, so Mitchell turned to an exercise rider who was less familiar with breezing the filly. "She's very deceiving," Mitchell said. "She's going faster than it seems."

Summer Mis is likely to race July 21 in a start designed to set her up for the Singapore Plate, but Mitchell still must decide between two different races.

No works on parched turf

Arlington closed its turf course for workouts this week because of dry conditions, but Gabriel said the measure was merely precautionary.

"With the extreme heat and no rain, it's hard to maintain it," Gabriel said.

With the best part of its meet ahead, Arlington is taking no chances with its prestigious course. Turf works are in theory limited to stakes nominees, and with no stakes racing here this weekend, the timing was right, Gabriel said, to make a push to add moisture to the grass.

"We like to soak it Sunday and Monday, and this gave us a little extra time," he said.

A storm that hit the area Monday night helped, dumping more than an inch of rain here, but conditions have gotten so dry that affect of the rain was limited. No thought was given at this time to limiting turf racing.