07/23/2001 12:00AM

Million may lure Guided Tour


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Almost 14 months have passed since Guided Tour's last turf start, a fifth-place finish in a Keeneland allowance race. Now, after Guided Tour's four-length Washington Park Handicap win Saturday, his connections are pondering a return to turf in the Aug. 18 Arlington Million.

Either the Million or the Pacific Classic at Del Mar the following day probably will be the site of Guided Tour's next race, trainer Niall O'Callaghan said Sunday.

No one really knows if Guided Tour is a top-class horse on turf. During the time since his grass appearance, Guided Tour has blossomed from a middling allowance horse to one of the top handicap runners in the country. He has won three Grade 2 stakes this year, including his last two starts. While his ascent came on dirt, early in his career Guided Tour, a 5-year-old Hansel gelding owned by Morton Fink, displayed comparable grass ability. "His numbers on turf actually were a bit better," O'Callaghan said. Guided Tour's Tomlinson turf rating is a respectable 320.

The fact that Fink lives in a Chicago suburb also lends weight to a start in the Million, and, O'Callaghan said, "He's a gelding, so we don't have to answer to anybody. I'm not trying to make him into a turf horse. The circumstances might be right, though."

But the Pacific Classic, also with a $1 million purse, could prove equally attractive. Guided Tour shipped to California this winter to win the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap, and O'Callaghan said traveling there again wasn't a concern. The recurring physical problems of early-season divisional leader Tiznow and Captain Steve's so-so performance in the Hollywood Gold Cup may render the Pacific Classic a wide-open race.

Juvenile allowance finally fills

Wednesday's nine-race program features the first 2-year-old allowance race of the Chicago season, but it took persistence to put the field together. The race, for fillies at six furlongs, showed up in the condition book last Friday but failed to fill. Racing secretary Dave Bailey continued to offer the race on subsequent programs and finally, when entries were taken Sunday for Wednesday, there was sufficient interest.

Seven horses entered, headed by At the Copa, the most impressive 2-year-old winner in Chicago this year. A $35,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale, At the Copa, by Capote, made her debut here June 28 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Breaking from post 10, At the Copa rocketed from the gate and had cleared her opponents in a matter of yards. She ran fast early, opening up on the turn, and ran fast late, running her last sixteenth of a mile in six seconds for a final 4 1/2-furlong time of 52.20 seconds.

Frank Alvarado has a return call on At the Copa, who adds Lasix on Wednesday.

Prime Plus could be the latest in a long line of talented young fillies trained by Sam David. She won her debut at Lone Star five weeks ago by almost two lengths and has worked very fast since then. Lil' Mary's Kitty, racing at Hawthorne, won her lone start by almost 15 lengths, but beat only six overmatched Illinois-breds that day and gets tested for class. Desert Stage was a standout winner in her Thistledown debut, while Brief Bliss was claimed out of an easy maiden-claiming win at Churchill.

- Cherokee Kim, third in the Arlington Classic last month, was euthanized after he broke his leg Sunday in the American Derby. Trained by the California-based Jerry Fanning, Cherokee Kim pulled up early in the race after taking a bad step. The Derby was run over a soft turf course that had been inundated with rain earlier in the afternoon.