07/28/2008 11:00PM

Mr. Nightlinger riding hot streak to BC


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Bret Calhoun was at Lone Star Park on Tuesday morning, overseeing an exodus of horses he trains that are shipping from Lone Star, which just wrapped up its season and is closing its stable area, to Retama, Remington, and Churchill. But the Calhoun barn was even more far-flung than that this past weekend, capturing the San Clemente at Del Mar with the excellent 3-year-old filly Storm Mesa and sending out Mr. Nightlinger to a highly impressive 3 1/4-length victory here at Arlington in the $54,000 Taylor's Special.

Mr. Nightlinger might well be the hottest turf sprinter in the country at the moment, and if things go as planned, he will make a return appearance at Arlington in the $200,000 Arlington Sprint on Aug. 23. Mr. Nightlinger has won four races in a row - with no one closer than a length to him at the finish - since Calhoun switched him to turf sprinting this spring in Kentucky.

"He is awesome," Calhoun said. "He's at the top of his game right now."

Mr. Nightlinger dashed toward the head of the turf-sprint class in the right season; the inaugural $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint will be run in October at Santa Anita. And after Mr. Nightlinger finishes the Chicago phase of his campaign, it will be on to California for a Breeders' Cup prep in the Morvich Handicap, Calhoun said.

Mr. Nightlinger's grass success didn't come as a huge surprise to Calhoun. In his third career start, in March 2007, Mr. Nightlinger finished a close fourth in a two-turn Fair Grounds grass race. It was no obviously shining effort, but Mr. Nightlinger still was in the early phase of his development, and the race was beyond his best distance.

"The jock came back and said he'd just loved the grass," Calhoun said.

Eleven races and 13 months later, Mr. Nightlinger tried turf again, and at odds of 21-1 he easily beat top turf sprinter Smart Enough in the Shakertown at Keeneland in April.

But even with his recent string of successes, Mr. Nightlinger does not rank as the top horse in Calhoun's string at Churchill Downs. That position goes to Euroears, who returned to light training about two weeks ago, Calhoun said, after recovering from a non-displaced hind-ankle fracture suffered early this spring in New Orleans. Euroears is 6 for 6 in his career and beat the classy Semaphore Man by more than three lengths in the Duncan Kenner at Fair Grounds, his last race before the injury. Calhoun said that if all goes well, Euroears would be ready to race at Keeneland or Churchill, or back at Fair Grounds later this year.

"They said from Day 1 that he would heal perfectly, and he has," Calhoun said.

European invasion set to begin

The European invasion for the Aug. 9 Arlington Million card begins Friday, when Million hopeful Archipenko will arrive from England for trainer Mike de Kock. Other overseas shippers will come to Chicago on flights over the weekend, with the final load of Europeans - including the Aidan O'Brien contingent - to arrive here Tuesday.

This group of Europeans - headed by Archipenko and the O'Brien-trained Mount Nelson - is decidedly superior to many that have come for the recent Million Day races. Both Mount Nelson (to be ridden by John Murtagh) and Archipenko (with jockey Kevin Shea) are Group 1 winners in 2008. Plan, another O'Brien-trained horse, figures to be a major factor in the Secretariat.

Silverfoot confirmed for Million

Silverfoot, winner of the Stars and Stripes here in his most recent start, was confirmed as a Million starter by trainer Dallas Stewart on Tuesday.

"We'll give him a chance for a million bucks," Stewart said. "If he gets beat, he won't get beat that far. He's a trying son of a gun."