07/01/2010 11:00PM

Pace may not suit Snow Top Mountain


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Snow Top Mountain has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 4 career starts and comes off an impressive closing second-place finish in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs. Yet Snow Top Mountain feels like something far less than a cinch facing five foes in the Grade 3, $100,000 Arlington Oaks on Saturday.

Snow Top Mountain, for one thing, has improved three races in a row, and coming back on three weeks' rest she may be due for natural regression. Moreover, while Snow Top Mountain won an allowance race over Keeneland Polytrack three starts ago, her two best showings have come on grass.

"I think she's probably a little better on turf," said Tom Proctor, who trains Snow Top Mountain for owner-breeder Barbara Hunter.

Snow Top Mountain, a daughter of Najran, made her career debut in a $75,000 maiden-claimer, but Proctor said the filly has steadily improved since she began racing.

"I'd say she's grown up some and doing well," Proctor said. "She's been a mild surprise."

Snow Top Mountain rallies late, and the early pace Saturday might be tepid. Chantilly Nayla could wind up on the early lead, but though she is a proven Polytrack performer, Chantilly Nayla is by sprinter, Five Star Day, and has never raced beyond a mile. The nine-furlong distance of the Arlington Oaks could tax her stamina.

Also likely to be close to the lead are Kentucky invader Age of Humor and Upperline, who has been freshened since finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.

"Her last two works have been very, very good," trainer Mike Stidham said. "We gave her a little break after the Keeneland race, sent her to Stone Farm, and she was out there for almost a month getting a break. We brought her in, with this race in mind."

Upperline won her career debut last summer at Arlington and was second to 2-year-old filly champ She Be Wild in a minor stakes.

Dundalk Dust has started her career 2 for 2 but is 8-1 in the Oaks morning line and figures to be at least that high a price, since she exits a win over Illinois-bred allowance competition. But Dundalk Dust finished smartly that day while making her first start after a long break, and trainer Chris Block said the added distance Saturday should not hinder Dundalk Dust.

"She's an improving filly that needs to take a bigger step forward, and I think she's training well enough to do that," Block said. "For a Grade 3 in your backyard, she deserves a shot."