08/10/2004 11:00PM

No clear Million favorite


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Thirteen horses were entered Wednesday in the . The way the weather is developing, they are advised to begin growing winter coats.

At noon Wednesday, it was 59 degrees at O'Hare International Airport, perhaps Chicago's coldest Aug. 11 ever. And if the temperature is confounding, try puzzling through Saturday's Million, a Grade 1 turf race at 1 1/4 miles. Sweet Return was installed as a tepid 7-2 morning-line favorite, which he may or may not be come post time. The Irish Group 1 winner Powerscourt is next at 4-1, with Sabiango third choice at 6-1.

However the race unfolds, heat and humidity will offer no cover for failure. The forecast for Arlington's triple Grade 1 program Saturday calls for sun and temperatures warmer than Wednesday's, but still unseasonably cool. The 1 3/16-mile, $750,000 Beverly D. drew 11 entries, headed by 2-1 favorite Musical Chimes and the Bobby Frankel-trained Commer-cante. There are just seven horses in the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat, where Kitten's Joy will be heavily favored.

Mile-and-a-quarter turf races at Arlington start at the end of the far turn, just before the stretch, offering plenty of time for riders to get position. In fact, the most difficult spot might be post 1.

"You kind of come out of the gate sideways," said Robin Graham, trainer of Mr O'Brien, who will break from the inside post. "You kind of have to come out running. But it is what it is."

Pat Day has picked up the mount on Mr O'Brien, who has gotten into traffic trouble in his last two starts. The connections of Mystery Giver, the locally based hope, also have changed riders, opting for Rene Douglas over Carlos Marquez. Edgar Prado, in an interesting decision, rides an Irish invader named Magistretti over Kicken Kris, who won the Secretariat last season and comes off a victory in the Bowling Green Handicap.

"Unfortunately, Edgar's agent spun us," said trainer Michael Matz.

Kent Desormeaux picks up the mount on Kicken Kris, who has post 4.

Magistretti is one of four Europeans in the Million, but he is not the best of them. Powerscourt, from the powerhouse Aidan O'Brien stable, and Epalo are Group 1 winners this year. Vespone has struggled this season, but won Group 1's last year as a 3-year-old.

Both Vespone, who has post 2, and the German horse Epalo, who breaks from the 7 hole, have early speed and should be close to the lead.

"I think we see four or five pacesetters in the race," said Epalo's trainer, Andreas Schutz. "I would rather have had the outside, but this is better than in Singapore."

Schutz refers to the Group 1 Singapore Cup, where Epalo broke from post 16. He won by five lengths anyway, and should be a somewhat shorter price Saturday than his 8-1 morning line.

Sweet Return, one of three California shippers, has post 3 and jockey Jerry Bailey, who has rides on live contenders in all three Grade 1's. The Canadian horse Mobil drew 13, but has the early speed to mitigate the outside post.

The Beverly D. has only two apparent front-runners, the longshots Quero Quero, who breaks from post 11 under Victor Espinoza, and Nochas de Rosa, who has post 3 and Mike Smith. Musical Chimes, so impressive winning the Grade 1 John C. Mabee last month at Del Mar, drew post 4. Commercante, who is being highly rated after a blowout allowance win in her only U.S. start, breaks from post 10. The race has three Europeans: Aubonne, who worked an easy three furlongs on dirt Wednesday at Arlington; Crimson Palace; and Necklace. Risakaverse was third in the race last year, and Donnie Von Hemel, who sent out runner-up Bien Nicole last year, starts the sharp Bedanken on Saturday.

Kitten's Joy, 6 for 7 in grass races, has the rail and Bailey in the Secretariat. He will try to give owner Ken Ramsey and trainer Dale Romans their second Grade 1 in a week; Roses in May won the Whitney for them last Saturday at Saratoga.

Simple Exchange, who won the American Derby here three weeks ago, has post 7. Greek Sun, the unbeaten Bobby Frankel-trained colt, breaks from post 3.