08/11/2002 11:00PM

Late bloomer Flatter may develop into a real gem

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Yes, there is a long way between a first-level allowance race and a stakes race. But the 3-year-old colt Flatter was in a different league than the horses he beat by more than 11 lengths in Arlington's first race on Saturday.

"He does things the way a good horse does them," said Robby Albarado, who rode Flatter for the first time.

In the breeding and ownership of Flatter, a son of A.P. Indy out of the mare Praise, Claiborne Farm partnered with Adele Dilschneider, the same team that campaigned Louisiana Derby winner Mighty. Mighty was trained by Frank Brothers, but Flatter resides in the Churchill stable of Steve Penrod. Penrod said Flatter trained along last year at age 2, but the time he needed to properly develop precluded a run at major spring races for 3-year-olds.

"He's just a great, big horse, and I think they gave him some time to grow up," Penrod said.

Flatter came to Penrod in March and was ready to go in early June, but he had trouble in his six-furlong debut and finished fourth. Stretched out to a mile July 6 at Churchill, Flatter made a clear lead and cruised to an easy win while under a hold from jockey Craig Perret.

Saturday's race, Flatter's first around two turns, was much the same, as the colt went straight to the front and drew off under his own power. His time of 1:50.04 for 1 1/8 miles was more than a half-second faster than Grade 3 fillies ran later that afternoon in the Singapore Plate.

"We'll probably take him back up to Arlington for his next start and go from there," Penrod said. "He's a pretty darned good horse, I think."

First four Europeans clear quarantine

With Cheshire's arrival here Sunday night, the seven-horse European contingent for Saturday's Arlington Million program was bedded down in the Arlington quarantine barn.

Besides Cheshire, Freefourinternet, Ulundi, and Paolini will contest the Million. Golden Silca is here for the Beverly D., while Love Regardless and Jazz Beat, second in the American Derby here three weeks ago, run in the Secretariat.

The Europeans began arriving here in small groups Saturday, and by Monday morning the first group of four had cleared the strictest quarantine restrictions and were allowed onto Arlington's training track.

Even after they clear quarantine, the Europeans are kept away from horses in the general Arlington population.

Love Regardless, Golden Silca, and Ulundi had very light exercise Monday on the training track, located about a half-mile from Arlington's main track and just behind the quarantine barn.

Gracia gets the last laugh

They laughed at Humberto Gracia, a small-time local trainer with three horses in Chicago.

"They told me I didn't know how to read a condition book," Gracia said Sunday. By then, he was the one laughing.

Saturday, he had run Summerzene in a third-level turf allowance race just two weeks after the colt had scored a half-length win in a first-level allowance. "He has a high temperament and he needed to run. He was going to break through his stall," Gracia said.

Summerzene was out of his allowance condition, but not out of his league. Looking much like a stakes-class grass horse, Summerzene flew through the final furlong for a powerful one-length win. Gracia can run him back soon in the same allowance condition, then think about stakes racing.

Summerzene wasn't supposed to be this good. Four races and four losses into his career, Summerzene was summarily dropped into a bottom-level maiden claimer. Gracia reached in and made a great claim for himself and Arcadio Arbuto. With Saturday's $23,000 purse, Summerzene is approaching $100,000 in earnings. Summerzene's form declined late last year because of a knee problem, so the 54-year-old Gracia, a native of Mexico City, had a bone chip surgically removed from Summerzene and gave him the winter off.

"He's training so good," Gracia said. "He's getting better and better."

* Miss Pickums won only once during her 3-year-old season, but won for the second straight time Sunday, easily beating Leslie in an overnight handicap here. Clearly much improved over last season, Miss Pickums roared to the lead on the far turn and won with little urging from jockey Rene Douglas. She seems like a natural candidate for the Sept. 2 Arlington Matron.