08/07/2004 12:00AM

Million loses Quantum Merit


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Fourteen horses were pre-entered Friday for the Arlington Million, but less than a day after the midnight deadline, the field already has diminished by one.

The New York-bred turf star Quantum Merit was declared from the race Saturday, bringing the prospective field down to 13. Quantum Merit won the Grade 2 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap in his last start, and could have been the controlling speed in the Million. But Quantum Merit will neither be running here nor anywhere else for several months. Upon having his bandages removed early Friday morning, Quantum Merit was found to have an injured tendon.

"He galloped beautifully yesterday, and [Richard] Milgiore was going to breeze him tomorrow," said trainer Del Carroll. "There's a little thing in his suspensory, his tendon area. As soon as I saw it, I said, 'We'll see him back next April or May.' "

Quantum Merit's absence leaves nine American horses and four European invaders in the 1 1/4-mile Million. A pre-entry fee of $5,000 was due to get into the race, so the field - barring further injury - is fairly firm. Another $10,000 payment is required to start.

The American-based horses are Hatif, Kicken Kris, Mobil, Mr O'Brien, Mystery Giver, Sabiango, Senor Swinger, Sweet Return, and Vangelis. The trans-Atlantic shippers are Epalo, Magistretti, Powerscourt, and Vespone. There will be three more Europeans each in the Grade 1 Beverly D. and Grade 1 Secretariat on Saturday. All the European shippers will be stabled at Arlington by Monday night.

Hatif still has allowance conditions remaining, and he appears to be the Million outsider. A win by any of the 12 others would be less than a shocking upset.

"It looks to me like anybody and everybody in there has a chance," said trainer Chris Block, who saddles the lone local Million hopeful, Mystery Giver.

The Million favorite could be Powerscourt, a Group 1 winner this year for trainer Aidan O'Brien. The top American horses are Sweet Return and Mr O'Brien, though Kicken Kris, Sabiango, and Senor Swinger are not far behind.

Mystery Giver, who just missed in the Arlington Handicap last month, breezed five furlongs around the dogs on turf Saturday in 1:06.80.

"That was pretty much what we were looking for," Block said.

Also working on turf Saturday were the Secretariat starter Simple Exchange, and Bedanken, who will run in the Beverly D.