08/09/2005 11:00PM

Megahertz takes her road test

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Megahertz long has been the queen of California grass racing, but her impact has been non-existent outside her home circuit. So when the 6-year-old mare runs Saturday as a top contender in the $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park, she will be trying to expand her horizons - all the way to a divisional Eclipse Award.

Indeed, the floor is wide-open for Megahertz to make a compelling case. She is unbeaten this year, having swept through three straight Grade 2 races in California, and no other filly or mare in the division can match her credentials. With the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf looming in the distance, the Beverly D. should provide a critical clue as to whether she is capable of succeeding outside the comfort of home.

"She does prefer the ground hard," said Bobby Frankel, who trains the British-bred Megahertz for Michael Bello. "So there really hasn't been much reason to run her anywhere but California."

In 23 races since being shipped to North America from France nearly four years ago, Megahertz has developed into a classy and reliable mare with one outstanding characteristic: a devastating late run that has carried her to victory 12 times and made her an earner of more than $1.8 million.

Still, there exists a prevailing sentiment that Megahertz simply is not as effective elsewhere as she is in California, and the Beverly D. seems the ideal venue to determine whether that is a fact. As true as ever to its Grade 1 ranking, the Beverly D. drew an outstanding field that also includes the New York standouts Wonder Again and Wend, along with Frankel's budding 3-year-old star Melhor Ainda.

Whatever the competition, Megahertz will need to perform better than she did in her only two forays outside California. She ran sixth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in October 2002 and was 11th last fall in the Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park.

Frankel said the Keeneland course was too sandy for Megahertz and that heavy rain preceding the Breeders' Cup left the Lone Star course too soft. And although the Chicago area has been in a drought in recent weeks, the Arlington course might not suit her, either, since the possibility of rain was in the forecast for Thursday through Saturday.

Frankel knows as well as anyone that if Megahertz is going to remain the leading contender for an Eclipse, she must overcome whatever is thrown at her.

"I thought about running her in the [July 23 Mabee Handicap at Del Mar], but we would've been spotting pretty much weight, and this is weight-for-age," said Frankel, adding he "never really considered" running Megahertz in the Beverly D. the last two years because he had other horses for the race.

About running two horses in the same race for different clients, Frankel said: "Obviously, I'm hoping they'll run one-two. Whoever gets beat, you'll feel bad for them, but this is the best spot for both horses."

Running a 3-year-old filly against the best older fillies and mares in August is not standard procedure, but Frankel believes Melhor Ainda is an exceptional filly deserving of an exceptional move. Although she never has earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, and several of her rivals, including Megahertz, regularly surpass that threshold, Melhor Ainda "actually has better [Ragozin] sheet numbers than the older fillies," said Frankel. "She's getting six pounds, and for a Grade 1 and that kind of money, we thought this was the right spot for her."

After winning four straight races, Melhor Ainda, a Pulpit filly owned by TNT Stud, incurred her first career defeat when she finished second to the Japanese filly Cesario in the Grade 1 American Oaks on July 3 at Hollywood Park. Frankel said Melhor Ainda had difficulty hitting her stride before leveling off to finish four lengths back.

"I'm not saying she would've beat the winner," he said. "But she ran a very good race on a speed-favoring course. She's a real nice filly."

Frankel, long known for his work with grass fillies and mares, already has won the Beverly D. twice, with eventual Eclipse champion Possibly Perfect in 1995 and with Heat Haze in 2003. He thinks a third victory would be terrific on its own merits, but it also would give him a leg up on the Eclipse race.

"If they run well, we'll regroup and start pointing for the Breeders' Cup," he said. "First, let's see what we can get done in Chicago."