04/05/2006 11:00PM

Milk It Mick can confirm he's top-notch in Arcadia

Milk It Mick earned a hard-fought victory last out in the Grade 1 Kilroe.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It may only be early April, but trainer Jim Cassidy is convinced that Milk It Mick is the sort of horse capable of making the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs in November.

"He's tough," Cassidy said. "He comes to play."

proved Cassidy's point with a hard-fought win in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita last month. He faces another vital test in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Arcadia Handicap at a mile on turf here.

Milk It Mick has drawn a tough post - the rail in a top-notch field of 10 - but Cassidy says the 5-year-old has done well since the Kilroe.

Milk It Mick must beat , the winner of two Grade 1 races last summer; Chinese Dragon and Terroplane, third and fifth in the Kilroe Mile; and Silent Name, who won an allowance race in his U.S. debut on March 12, winning in a field that included the Arcadia entrants Runaway Dancer and Helm Bank.

was third in the Kilroe Mile. He rallied from 12th in a field of 13 to miss by a head. The race marked his first loss in five starts on turf at Santa Anita.

"I thought that race could have gone five different ways," trainer Bob Hess said. "I think he's moved forward. This division is really competitive. It will probably be as much of a jockey's race as a horse race."

Sweet Return, who has earned $1,523,731, was second in this race last year. He later won the Charles Whittingham and Eddie Read handicaps. A mile may be on the shorter end of his best trip, but he did win the 2004 Kilroe at that distance. The Arcadia is his first start since October.

"He's not a good work horse but he should be fit enough," trainer Ron McAnally said.

Milk It Mick, a Group 1 winner in England in 2003, will be ridden for the first time by David Flores. He replaces Kent Desormeaux, who has left the circuit for New York.

Flores has worked Milk It Mick in the last few weeks, including a quick five furlongs in 58.60 seconds on March 23, the fastest of 76 works that morning, and five furlongs in 1:00.20 on March 31.

"I've done everything I can to get him familiar with the horse," Cassidy said of Flores. "The last time I worked him, I said, 'I don't want any bullets.' It was actually 59 and change."

Cassidy also trains Helm Bank, a 6-year-old who was narrowly beaten in his first two U.S. starts, finishing fourth in the Thunder Road on Feb. 8 and third behind Silent Name.

"He hasn't done what I expected of him," Cassidy said. "I've been training him in blinkers. Hopefully that will get him more aggressive. I won't run him in blinkers, but I will in the next race if I don't see him more aggressive this time."