08/23/2005 11:00PM

Out-of-town guest challenges Fifteen Rounds


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - There's a Grade 1 winner coming in for the Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap. The trainer Christine Janks doesn't really know his form, and doesn't yet care to know. Janks has been pointing the Arlington-based sprinter Fifteen Rounds to the Arlington Sprint, and she's not about to duck anybody now.

"I think we have a very fast horse," Janks said. "Whoever it is will have to be faster to beat him."

The heavy-head shipper is Wildcat Heir, who won the Grade 1 De Francis Dash late last year but has been slowed by injury this season. Wildcat Heir made his 2005 debut Aug. 7 at Monmouth in the $100,000 Teddy Drone, and won by almost six lengths, and his connections have designs on the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Trained by Ben Perkins Jr., Wildcat Heir might be the favorite in a seven-horse field that also includes Elusive Jazz, in addition to Fifteen Rounds, Fire Slam, High Blitz, Level Playingfield, and Rodeo's Castle.

Eventually, Janks will sit down and analyze Saturday's race. But her point was clear. Her focus has been on getting Fifteen Rounds from race to race, not worrying about the competition.

Not now, at least. Twice this meet, Janks took a calculated risk and started Fifteen Rounds in a claiming race, once for a $50,000 tag, once for $100,000.

"I don't like to overmatch my horses," she said, "and that's all he was worth at the time."

Fifteen Rounds won both of those claiming starts, pumping up his confidence and laying the foundation for stronger performances later in the summer. Fifteen Rounds has yet to face high-level competition or run for a six-figure purse this year, but his allowance win here Aug. 5 produced the fastest six-furlong time of the meet (1:08.46) and a visually dazzling display of stretch speed.

Two years ago, at age 3, Fifteen Rounds dazzled only occasionally.

"He was a really good horse before, but spotty," said Janks. "He's gotten sounder now, and much more relaxed. Some of that is his temperament, some it is physical."

Janks credited jockey Chris Emigh and her assistant, Rob Dobbs, with helping bring Fifteen Rounds to a peak.

"There's the horse, Chris, Rob, and me, and I'm the least important one in the group," she said.

Fort Prado to Woodbine for Play the King

Fort Prado has conquered the Chicago middle-distance turf division. Wednesday night, he was to leave for Woodbine Race Course to have a go outside the local milieu.

Fort Prado runs Saturday in the $200,000 Play the King Handicap, his first start away from home since last fall. Among others, he faces the crack turf sprinter Soaring Free, who is based at Woodbine and will have a perceived home-court edge. But Fort Prado has done everything right so far this year, and has the right demeanor to hit the road and produce his best race against a good horse.

"I don't see what we have to lose by going there," said trainer Chris Block, who has tabbed Brice Blanc to ride Fort Prado. The horse's regular rider, Eddie Razo, has commitments in Chicago.

"He's doing well right now, and there's really nothing for him until Hawthorne in September," Block said. "That'd still give him a little over three weeks to rest up for that. I wouldn't go right now if he weren't on his game, but he acts like he is."

Fort Prado, an Illinois-bred by El Prado, won the Sea O'Erin Breeders Cup here in his last start, and is unbeaten in four starts this season.

Straight Line takes to the turf in workout

Grade 3 winner Straight Line set foot on a turf course for the first time during training here Wednesday, and he liked it. After balking when jockey Shaun Bridgmohan tried to turn him the right way to get his work started, Straight Line did everything right. He went well in hand down the backstretch and around the far turn, but flew home under light urging from Bridgmohan.

"Phenomenal," was how Bridgmohan described the breeze.

Clockers caught Straight Line in 51.60 seconds for a half-mile, a fast work with the dogs placed far out into the track. Trainer Brian Williamson said he timed Straight Line's final quarter-mile in about 22 seconds. Whatever the details, Straight Line obviously showed enough affinity for the turf to earn a spot in an overnight 3-year-old grass stakes in mid-September. If he runs well there, Straight Line could wind up in a Keeneland stakes race.

Friday's overnight stakes fails to fill

The overnight stakes prep for the Arlington-Washington Lassie failed to fill and was dropped from Friday's card. The highest-class race of the day is the eighth, a second-level allowance for fillies and mares.

One thing that hurt the overnight stakes was the absence of Party Planner, among the sharpest 2-year-old maiden winners at this meet. Trainer Mike Stidham had long pointed Party Planner to this spot, but the filly came down sick a week ago and is just now regaining her health.