08/30/2001 11:00PM

Native Dancer still strong without Dream Run


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. ? Dream Run is out, but the Native Dancer Handicap still came up a good race.

With Dream Run, the Florida Derby fourth-place finisher, opting instead for a second-level sprint allowance Sunday at Arlington, the $55,000 Native Dancer, for 3-year-olds at a mile, still drew a good field of eight, led by Compendium, Horrible Evening, and San Pedro.

Compendium and Horrible Evening met this spring in the Northern Dancer Handicap at Churchill, where Compendium ran the best race of his career, winning by almost two lengths in a swift time. Horrible Evening and San Pedro met here in the Round Table Stakes in late July, with the Horrible Evening finishing fourth and San Pedro sixth.

The three colts are familiar, then, and fairly evenly matched. The edge may go to Compendium, who cuts back from a pair of two-turn races, both against better company, to a one-turn mile ? just as in the Northern Dancer.

"One and an eighth miles has proven to be too far for him," said trainer Steve Asmussen, referring to the distance of Compendium's last race, the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby, where he finished third. Said Asmussen, "He's not as sharp right now" as when he won the Northern Dancer. "The traveling, and chasing Touch Tone in the Iowa Derby, that wears them down. We're looking to rebound with him."

Horrible Evening rebounded in his last race, bouncing back from consecutive defeats to win the Prairie Meadows Derby, in which he was a heavy favorite. That win came at nine furlongs, but it's possible that this colt also prefers a one-turn mile.

San Pedro, an Illinois-bred, was stuck down on the deepest part of the track during most of the Round Table, and trainer Spanky Broussard expects an improved effort Sunday.

The rest of the field, from the rail out, includes Storm Mist, Freeway Ticket, Tub Tosser, There's Zealous, and Don Regino.

Quiet, and then. . . boom! boom!

Barn 8 at Arlington is tucked into a quiet corner of the backstretch, wedged between two dormitories and the training track. This is one of the barns Arlington uses to house smaller outfits, and several smaller training operations share the cavernous space.

Among them is the 77-year-old trainer, Elmer Miller, who has had a memorable week here, doubling his win total for the season. During the year's first eight months Miller had won twice from 54 starts. Then he won on consecutive days. On Wednesday, it was with Paavo's Princess, who won the second race, paying $93.20. On Thursday, Eejay won the ninth race, paying $82.20.

"You don't think I'm going to give any trade secrets away," Miller laughed, when asked about the two sudden bombs. "Horses get good, then they tail off, then they get good again."

Miller has been around long enough to dispense such wisdom with first-hand knowledge. Born in Paducah, Ky., Miller began training at Kentucky fair tracks 55 years ago. "I got into it just after World War II," he said. "It was pretty tough back then. My dad was a jockey and my grandfather was a trainer."

Miller gave much credit for his two surprise winners to jockey E.T. Baird, who just began riding for the stable. He was on Paavo's Princess for the second time when she won, and was on Eejay for the first time. "He rode them like I wanted them to be ridden," Miller said. "The filly just beat a bad bunch. She was in the right spot. Eejay, he'd gotten a little sore, but he's been feeling better.

"It's kind of an up-and-down business. When it's good, it's good, but when it's bad, it's really bad."

Sea O'Erin kicks off Pick-4

The $100,000 Sea O' Erin Breeders' Cup Mile is the featured race here Monday. The race kicks off the America's Pick-4 wager, for which Arlington will be the betting hub this year. The Pick-4 also includes the Diana Handicap at Saratoga, the Cradle Stakes at River Downs, and the Miami Breeders' Cup at Calder.

At one mile on turf, the race will go without its highweight, Jake the Flake, who will run at Mountaineer Park instead. But Galic Boy and Langston, the next two on racing secretary David Bailey's scale, will start. Galic Boy, assigned 118 pounds, won the John Henry Stakes here Aug. 17. He has captured the John Henry two years in a row, but has never won a stakes of this quality.

Langston finished second in the 12-furlong Stars and Stripes Handicap here this summer and was a game winner of a high-end turf allowance on July 29.

The horse Langston narrowly beat, Dick Duchossois's Apt to Be, also is possible for Monday's race, along with Intern, Kris's Sleigh, Medievil Hero, Orleans Road, Ask the Lord, and Minor Wisdom.

Douglas okay after spill

Jockey Rene Douglas was fortunate to escape injury when his mount, Altered Birdie, broke down badly in a turf race Thursday. Altered Birdie was traveling along well when he stepped in a hole on the far turn and broke his leg. He and Douglas went down hard, and Douglas narrowly avoided being stepped on by a pair of trailing horses. Douglas took off his final mount of the day, but rode again Friday. Altered Birdie had to be euthanized.

o Shane Sellers lost on his only mount Thursday and remains winless in eight races since his comeback here last week.