09/06/2005 11:00PM

No Gabriel, no problem: 12 in feature


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - There was a certain something missing when entries were being taken for Friday's races on Wednesday at Arlington Park. A certain someone, to be more exact.

Frank Gabriel's office door was open, but there was no Frank Gabriel. Arlington's longtime racing guru has left the building, and will soon be moving to Dubai to begin his new career. Chris Polzin, Arlington's assistant racing secretary, has some sort of de facto authority, but with just a handful of racing days left in the meet, the thought is that the office can basically continue running on momentum.

"There's no reason to rush," Arlington president Cliff Goodrich said, answering a question about finding a replacement for Gabriel. "I can't wait until opening day, but I can wait until the end of the year."

The office did okay without him on Friday: 84 horses, excluding also-eligibles, were entered on a nine-race card. That's a decent number, considering Arlington had only one dark day this week and that Wednesday is a double-entry day. There is not really a so-called feature; the seventh, an entry-level allowance for Illinois-breds at 1 1/16 miles on turf, will have to suffice.

While the race showcases no budding stars, it drew a full field of 12 with two more on the also-eligible list. In fact, the two also-eligibles are two of the better horses in the race, especially Class Ack, who looked good winning an Illinois-bred maiden race on Aug. 24. Beamer One, the other horse who needs a scratch or two to draw in, comes off a solid second-place finish in an open $30,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer.

If neither draws in, could wind up as the favorite, though he has yet to win a grass race after three tries. Church Cart, however, rallied from far back to finish second in a race like this one in his last start, and a repeat of the effort would put him in a position to win on Friday.

But take a careful look at the two horses entered by trainer Chris Block. One is , who won a maiden turf race well three races ago. He regressed in his next start, finishing sixth on yielding turf in a race at this class level, and was rained off the grass on Aug. 18. Throw that last race out, guess that Swift Dakota didn't handle wet turf two starts ago, and you can make a case for him.

Block's other is , who hasn't raced since February, and makes his first start for Block. Oak Forest flashed ability last year at 2, and worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 on Sept. 3, a tremendous breeze for a horse at this class level.