08/12/2008 12:00AM

Ontrack handle showing decline


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Arlington Million day produced solid financial results for Arlington Park, but the meet as a whole, mirroring national trends, has suffered a downturn this season in local betting.

Arlington handled $2,944,566 ontrack last Saturday, down about 4 percent from 2007, while total all-sources handle on the 12-race card was $16,733,202, down more than 2 percent from $17,122,560 in 2007. Attendance on Million Day fell slightly, from 32,055 to 31,463.

The Million Day performance obscured a longer-term performance that, while unsettling, is not surprising. More prominent racetracks than Arlington - Del Mar and Saratoga, to name two ongoing meets - are experiencing handle slides, and the weather this year in Chicago has been cool and wet. Moreover, the national economy has faltered in 2008, leaving potential bettors with less disposable income.

Arlington has held its own from 2007 to 2008 in terms of out-of-state handle on its local product: Through Million Day (67 programs), Arlington's gross handle was $297,679,141, averaging $4,442,972 daily, down from $304,654,466 through 67 programs in 2007, a decline of 2.3 percent. Total out-of-state betting on Arlington races is down only about $5,000 for the meet, and the aggregate handle decline comes almost entirely from a decline in ontrack handle. That number has fallen from $41,457,589 in 2007 to $35,591,595 in 2008, a daily average of $531,218 and a decrease of more than 14 percent. And that is unwelcome news both for the local purse structure and Arlington's bottom line, since both the racetrack and purses receive a much greater percentage of a bet placed at Arlington than they do from bets taken out-of-state on Arlington races.

While 2007, the first year of Polytrack racing here, was a bounce-back season from the breakdown-plagued 2006 meet, ontrack handle on live racing rose less than 1 percent from 2006 to 2007.

Because of Churchill Downs Inc. policies, Arlington does not release handle information, but the figures must be reported to the Illinois Racing Board, from which they were obtained.

Amazing Results shows a liking

Team Block has suddenly found themselves with another 3-year-old who excels over Polytrack. Last year it was Shrewd Operator, who is out of action with an injury this summer, but Amazing Results's excellent win on Saturday in the Forward Pass Stakes made him look about as Polytrack-talented as Shrewd Operator did at his best.

Amazing Results was produced by the Block's mare Ioya Two, a grass specialist, and therefore Amazing Results made his first seven starts on turf, winning three races and looking like a very solid animal. He tried Polytrack for the first time in June, winning the Springfield Stakes over Illinois-breds, and was even better on Saturday, capturing the Forward Pass in open company by three lengths with a powerful stretch run.

"After he ran the last time my dad [Dave Block] was wanting to go back to the turf," said trainer Chris Block. "I said, 'Lets run him on Million Day and test him there, and if he does well, we can go back to Kentucky with him.' I thought he'd run good, he'd been training so good, but I didn't know he'd run like that."

lock said Amazing Results was likely to return to turf in the $100,000 Lake Michigan Stakes here Sept. 20, a sprint race for 3-year-olds. The Perryville at Keeneland, in which Shrewd Operator finished third last year, comes up on Oct. 11.

"We'll use his next start and go from there," Block said.

Dreaming of Anna doing fine

Dreaming of Anna got an extra day of walking trainer Wayne Catalano's shed row after finishing a game fourth Saturday in the Beverly D. Stakes, but otherwise came out of the race in good condition, Catalano said Tuesday.

Dreaming of Anna set the pace in the Beverly D. and while no match for the winner, Mauralakana, she was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths, and finished just in front of favored Precious Kitten while facing the toughest competition of her career at a distance longer than she had ever raced.

"I was really happy with her performance," Catalano said. "She really dug in."

Catalano declined to make excuses for his filly, but preparation for the Beverly D. did not go perfectly. Dreaming of Anna missed at least one and perhaps two breezes in mid-July, and was playing at least a mild game of catch-up going into the race.

"I'd have liked to have another week or 10 days," Catalano said. "It wasn't that big of a deal, but you need everything to be right for a race like that."

There are no concrete plans for Dreaming of Anna, but her connections would like her to make the Breeders' Cup this fall in California. Dreaming of Anna has never raced on a synthetic surface, but Catalano is keen to try her on one.

Semaphore Man nears return

Semaphore Man, who won the Grade 3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park in his most recent race, has posted three works at Arlington, and should be ready to return to the races before long. Trained by Kelly Von Hemel, Semaphore Man currently is stabled with Von Hemel's father, Don, at Arlington.

His record shows only a bullet half-mile work in 47 seconds here Monday, but Semaphore Man has worked three times, including a three-furlong drill and one other half-mile, Von Hemel said. Those works didn't make the official tab because Semaphore Man's foal papers had not yet been filed at Arlington.

"We gave him a little time off after Oaklawn," Von Hemel said. "He's been back about six weeks. Right now, we're just waiting to see how he comes around, and once we get a little closer, we'll pick [a race] out."

Von Hemel has the filly sprinter Miss Macy Sue back at Prairie Meadows after her fourth-place finish in the Honorable Miss on Aug. 1 at Saratoga. Miss Macy Sue is being pointed to the Presque Isle Downs Masters next month, a race she easily won in 2007.