07/23/2006 11:00PM

Million Day next for weekend turf aces

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CHICAGO - The winners of all three turf stakes last Saturday at Arlington Park figure to reconvene on Arlington Million Day.

Cosmonaut, winner of the Arlington Handicap, will take a serious step up in class and try the Arlington Million, trainer Patrick Biancone said Monday. Chic Dancer, the locally based horse who upset the Modesty Handicap last weekend, is slated for a start in the Beverly D. And Union Avenue, a 23-1 winner in the American Derby, will likely return to Arlington from his base at Churchill Downs and try the Grade 1 Secretariat.

Cosmonaut was the surprise pacesetter in the Arlington Handicap, and he took advantage of the circumstances to score a 2 1/4-length win, though the horse he beat on a course rated "soft" was Load a Chronic, more an allowance-class animal than a stakes star. Nevertheless, Biancone said Cosmonaut would train at Turfway Park and return to Arlington for the Million.

"That's my thought at this stage," Biancone said.

Cosmonaut is only 4, and Biancone said he forecasts better things for the horse next season. Biancone said he ran Cosmonaut in dirt races leading up to the Arlington Handicap to try to strengthen the horse for a return to turf.

"In California when he was racing on turf he was kind of missing something," Biancone said. "He's become stronger, and I think he's on his way now."

Trainer Christine Janks said Chic Dancer exited her 9-1 Modesty upset in good shape. Janks said months ago that she planned on getting Chic Dancer to the Beverly D., though at the time, Chic Dancer hadn't even won a stakes race. But she has clearly improved, and she earned a spot in a Grade 1 with a game half-length score over favored Louve Royale. Janks said Chic Dancer, a nervous type, wouldn't need a lot of work to get to her next race.

"She puts a lot into her training every day - between the stall and the training, she's quite active," Janks deadpanned.

Union Avenue, a half-length winner of the American Derby, appeared to exit his first graded stakes win in good condition, according to Kenny McCarthy, trainer Bill Mott's chief Churchill Downs assistant.

"In having a conversation with Elliott Walden this morning, the racing manager for WinStar, he indicated [the Secretariat] probably would be the direction they'd want to go," McCarthy said Monday. "We'll see how he looks after a week or 10 days, and then make a final decision."

McCarthy said he wasn't certain about Desert Wheat's status for the Secretariat. Desert Wheat finished fourth in the American Derby. Mott also trains the East Coast-based Go Between, who won the Virginia Derby and is another candidate for the Secretariat.

Motion's three headed for Grade 1's

Trainer Graham Motion, meanwhile, could have horses for all three Grade 1 stakes here next month. Motion said he's firmly targeting the Beverly D. with Film Maker, leaning toward the Million with Better Talk Now, and also might send Amigoni, third in the American Derby, back for the Secretariat.

Amigoni, making only his third U.S. start, was beaten 1 1/4 lengths for second, and 2 3/4 lengths for first, on Saturday.

"I thought he ran well," said Motion, who is based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland. "He got back last night, and he seems fine."

Motion said the Sword Dancer at Saratoga remained a possibility for Better Talk Now. He said that if Better Talk Now did come to the Million, he would be entered without the pacemaker Motion has often employed over the last two seasons.

Local media jumps on breakdown

Coolwind scored an impressive win Sunday in the Sweetest Chant Stakes, but the race was marred by the fatal breakdown of Just Ducky, spurring another round of news reports in the Chicago media.

Led by the Chicago Tribune, which for the first time in years has a reporter stationed daily at Arlington, Just Ducky's breakdown was duly recorded by local media outlets that had jumped on the Arlington breakdown story last month. The local National Public Radio station, WBEZ, even led a local morning newscast Monday with mention of Just Ducky's demise.

Just Ducky, a 10-1 shot in the Sweetest Chant, sustained condylar and sesamoid fractures in her left front leg, trainer Steve Hobby said. Hers was just the second afternoon breakdown since Arlington added pine bark to its track surface earlier this month in an effort to soften the track's concussion on horses' legs. Hobby said he was a leading proponent of the pine bark, and said he believed the material "really had made a difference."

Still, he was left baffled by Just Ducky's breakdown. "She was a 100 percent sound horse. She's the last horse in the barn you'd expect to break down. She was real light, kind of ran like a little deer."

Hobby lost another horse earlier in the meet, an old claimer who pulled up on a backstretch section of the racetrack that hasn't come under scrutiny. He said some of his owners were expressing concern about running horses on the Arlington dirt.

"It's a scary situation," he said.

Coolwind, however, exited a 2 3/4-length win in good shape, trainer Greg Geier said, and is likely to make her next start in the Aug. 19 Arlington Oaks.

"That's the game plan as of right now," Geier said.