08/01/2006 11:00PM

Major Rhythm can stand heat

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Benoit & Associates
Major Rhythm is the only horse in the Sea O'Erin coming off a graded stakes win.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Seven horses, including defending champion Fort Prado, were entered Wednesday in the $150,000 Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile. The field also includes Woodbine-based Le Cinquieme Essai, third last year in the Woodbine Mile; Therecomes-atiger, third last out in the Firecracker Breeders' Cup at Churchill; and Kid Grindstone, winner of consecutive stakes races. Rapid Proof won for a $62,500 claiming tag last time out, while Cougar Cat has not won a turf race since his 2-year-old season in France. And then there is Major Rhythm, who had not won a race of any kind since 2004 before capturing the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Handicap at odds of 35-1 here July 2.

Major Rhythm lops off a half-mile in distance Saturday; trainer Ed Beam doesn't think it matters.

"He doesn't care," said Beam, who trains a small string and does much of the work to keep it going himself. "You know, he's just a tough old hard-running thing. He likes to run."

Beam doesn't have quite the same Southern twang to his voice, but his manner of speech roughly parallels that of jockey Earlie Fires, who guided Major Rhythm to a head victory in the Stars and Stripes. Fires, an Arlington favorite, will be back aboard Saturday, and though Major Rhythm is the only horse in the race coming off a graded stakes victory, he may be no better than fifth choice in the wagering.

"He's always a longshot," Beam said. "The horse the other day, he didn't deserve to be 35-1, but they've never bet the horse."

Beam, however, makes a point of putting Major Rhythm in races where he can compete. Though he broke a long losing streak last out, Major Rhythm finished no worse than fifth, and was beaten no more than 3 1/2 lengths, in eight of his previous 10 races. The horse does well in hot weather, and Beam, who trains Major Rhythm for owner James Messineo, said he isn't in the Sea O'Erin for kicks.

"In my opinion, I don't like to take shots," he said. "When I run, I don't care what kind of horse I run, I expect to get some change back. It doesn't always work out that way - but it usually does."

Maine professor may inspect track

The leading candidate to conduct a second Illinois Racing Board inspection of the Arlington Park track surface is Michael Peterson, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine at Orono.

"We're in the final stages of securing a consultant," Marc Laino, executive director of the IRB, said Wednesday. "We haven't finalized an agreement yet, but [Peterson] is by far our lead candidate."

Gregory Coon, a track-surface specialist based in Florida, conducted an initial IRB-sponsored analysis of Arlington's track, the board having undertaken that step in response to a high rate of in-race breakdowns at this meet. The IRB announced the need for a second track inspection last Friday after releasing a statement that said Coon's formal report had been compromised by contact, both oral and written, with Arlington management. Coon met briefly with Arlington president Roy Arnold, and submitted written recommendations to the track, though Arnold has characterized the meeting as wholly innocent, and the recommendations to Arlington - not part of Coon's formal report - also were mailed to the IRB.

Peterson last week conducted an analysis of the Del Mar racing surface, the subject of scrutiny because of a high breakdown rate during the track's opening week. Peterson has been involved in racetrack analysis for more than 10 years, and according to a story in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, he has "developed a contraption that hooks to the back of an SUV and measures a track's stiffness and resistance by simulating the force of a Thoroughbred's hoof at full speed."

Three Hour Nap recovering

Three Hour Nap, who fractured his right foreleg during the Washington Park Handicap on Saturday, continues to progress well as he recovers from surgery performed Monday in Kentucky. Three Hour Nap had screws and a plate surgically inserted to stabilize the leg while the bone heals, and was given a good prognosis for recovery. The surgery went smoothly, and Three Hour Nap has done well since.

"The follow-up X-rays look good," trainer Hugh Robertson said Wednesday. "They changed his bandage today and everything looked fine underneath it, and he's already walking sound. Everything is good so far, as well as can be expected."

Coach Jimi Lee to Prairie Sprint

Coach Jimi Lee is one of the best sprinters based in Chicago, but he will make another start out on the road. Trainer Jim DiVito plans to ship Coach Jimi Lee back to Prairie Meadows - the horse's home away from home - for Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Meadows Sprint. But the Coach, who owns the fastest six-furlong time ever recorded in Illinois, is expected to race at his home base later this month in the Aug. 26 Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"He's doing really good right now," said DiVito.

Coach Jimi Lee won the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap last month, his third straight victory in that race.