06/17/2004 11:00PM

New backstretch dorms going up


CHICAGO - Arlington Park plans to spend $3 million building two new dormitories on its backstretch, the track announced on Friday. The renovations will begin after the track's 2004 meet concludes in September, and when complete, the new dormitories will add 96 residential units to the backstretch.

A recent article in a local newspaper questioned the adequacy of Arlington's backstretch housing, which is home to many families during the summer. Living quarters are close to barns and daily work areas, and some family-style dorms had cramped living space and offered no private washroom facilities.

The backstretch renovation plans, which Arlington president Cliff Goodrich said were the "culmination of many months of planning," will improve conditions for backstretch workers, especially children. Arlington provides free housing to more than 1,000 seasonal employees each year.

Construction on one new dorm will begin this September and should be completed in time for the 2005 racing season. The second dormitory will be built between the 2005 and 2006 racing seasons. The dorms will go up in the northwest corner of Arlington's 160-acre backstretch, and will be separated from barns and commonly used backstretch roadways.

"Arlington Park has a long-term commitment to improving the quality of life while ensuring the safety of families on the backstretch. This is just one step in that process," Goodrich said.

Humorous Miss looks best

There have been days at this Arlington meet when you could not find anything resembling a true feature race: Sunday, there are three.

The nominal feature is the Double Delta, an overnight stakes carded for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf, but two other races - the fourth and the sixth - are of stakes quality.

The $40,000 Double Delta drew a field of 10, and two horses appear to have an edge: Humorous Miss and Lovely Afternoon.

Lovely Afternoon was one of the best 2-year-old Pennsylvania-bred fillies of 2003 - which is not saying a tremendous amount. But she was fourth here last fall in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie, and after two so-so efforts to start her season, Lovely Afternoon won an off-the-turf, second-level allowance race in her last start. Lovely Afternoon won her maiden last fall on the Hawthorne grass, but she did not beat foes of distinction that start, and will have to do better to get past Humorous Miss.

When Humorous Miss ran on June 4, she turned in the best performance of her career, soundly beating older horses in an entry-level turf allowance.

"She's been getting a little smarter all the time," said trainer Bobby Springer. Springer, too, thinks Humorous Miss is coming off a lifetime best race, and he believes she can duplicate it.

"Hopefully, she can run that race right back, and if she does, I believe she'll win," Springer said.

Caiman in here from Belmont Stakes

Sunday's fourth race, a fourth-level turf allowance with an $80,000 claiming option, drew seven entrants, including Caiman, the colt that finished eighth two weekends ago in the Belmont Stakes. Caiman's trainer, Angel Medina, said his horse had bounced back quickly from the Belmont, but even so, Caiman will be hard-pressed to beat a salty group of older horses.

The race includes False Promises, who won the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby last fall, but was an even sixth May 16 in his 2004 debut. At a mile, False Promise' comeback race probably was too short for him, but he gets only an extra half-furlong Sunday, and False Promises is looking for more ground than that.

Moreover, False Promises and all the other stretch-runners could be at the mercy of a slow pace in Sunday's race. The potential beneficiary of the pace setup is a horse named Purplest, who would have a chance were he to revive his form from 2002.

As notable as who is in the sixth race is who is not. For "money-since" allowance horses or $100,000 claimers, the race is at one mile on dirt, and it was supposed to be the spot for Apt to Be, second in the Grade 3 Hanshin the last time he ran. But Apt to Be is a bad-footed horse, and on Thursday he came up with a nasty quarter crack that has forced a temporary halt to training.

"He was sensitive on it, and when I trained him, he just wasn't the same horse," said trainer Chris Block.

Block does have a substitute, a horse named Formal Decree, who impressively won a third-level allowance race here in his last start. But the horse to beat here is Attack the Books, a decent fifth last out in the Hanshin, and at his best around one turn at Arlington.

Sibille gets first victory of year

The 51-year-old rider Ray Sibille broke through Wednesday with his first win of 2004, a victory in the ninth race aboard a horse named Kasparov.

Sibille has seen limited action this season, as he tries to regain his form after sustaining a back injury last year. There is physical therapy, training regimens, and that sort of thing, but winning a race sure helped.

"I tell you, I woke up the next morning and there was no pain at all," Sibille said Friday. "I saw my agent at the track, and I said, 'It's a miracle!'"