08/07/2001 11:00PM

Package Store needs to get in it to win it


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Package Store might be one of the better 3-year-old turf horses in the country, but his inclusion in the Grade 1 Secretariat Aug. 18 hinges on horses defecting during the next week. As it stands, the Secretariat will attract more than the maximum number of entrants, 14, and Package Store, second in a pair of New York Grade 3 stakes this summer, could be excluded from the field.

Getting into the Secretariat is easier for European horses than horses based in this country. Up to seven overseas horses are accepted into the field, regardless of their qualifications.

European participation in the International Festival of Racing - which comprises three Grade 1 races on the same day, the Secretariat, Arlington Million, and Beverly D. - was facilitated when strict quarantine regulations spurred by the hoof and mouth disease outbreak in England were lifted for both the International Festival and the Breeders' Cup. As they have in the past, Europeans can ship directly into Arlington's quarantine barn, something they couldn't have done before the quarantine regulations were softened.

With four Europeans expected for the Secretariat, as well as some U.S. graded stakes winners and horses with superior earnings, Package Store could miss the cut.

"I'm training him up to it like he's going to run," trainer Tom Skiffington said. "I've done more of a rush job with him than I usually do with most of my horses, but he's impressed me so much I thought he was up to it."

If Package Store can't run in the Secretariat, he'll be pointed to the Sept. 2 Saranac Stakes at Saratoga.

In any case, Skiffington will have a starter in the International Festival, as the South African import Spook Express is bound for the Beverly D. The 7-year-old Spook Express has won 12 of 18 lifetime starts and was third in the New York Handicap in her last race. The Skiffington-trained Maxzene finished second in the 1997 Beverly D. after winning the New York.

Modesty Handicap winner Ioya Two won't start in the Beverly D., trainer Chris Block said Wednesday. An Illinois-bred owned by Block and his family, Ioya Two would have to be supplemented into the race for $21,000.

"It's a lot of money to put up to try and hit the board," Block said. "She could run the race of her life and still be fifth. My Beverly D. was the Modesty - that's the way I look at it."

Block said Ioya Two would start the day after the Beverly D. in the Reluctant Guest Handicap.

White Heart joins Million field

Arlington officials added White Heart to the list of probable starters for the Million, and trainer Neil Drysdale said Wednesday that he has been pointing the gelding toward the race. White Heart punched his ticket to Chicago on Wednesday morning when he put in a good seven-furlong turf breeze, which was around the dogs and in company.

"He worked very strong," Drysdale said.

White Heart, a 6-year-old English-bred owned by Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum, has raced only twice this year but is a proven Grade 1 performer at 10 furlongs. White Heart has raced only six times in the United States and has won two Grade 1 stakes, the 2000 Whittingham Handicap and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill this spring. In his last start, June 10, White Heart finished fourth in this year's Whittingham, beaten almost two lengths by likely Million foe Bienamado but only a nose and a head for second.

"They were all clustered up behind Bienamado that day," Drysdale said, adding that White Heart endured a rough trip in the race.

Drysdale said Gary Stevens, aboard White Heart for his Woodford Reserve win, was scheduled to ride in the Million. Drysdale, a Hall of Fame trainer, has never won the Million.

White Heart will be part of a large California contingent that flies here Aug. 15 for the Aug. 18 International Festival of Racing. The shipment includes Bienamado, the likely favorite in the Million, as well as Astra, who should be a heavy favorite to win the Beverly D.

European-based horses will arrive here in two shipments next week. Mizzen Mast, bound for the Secretariat, and Silvano, who runs in the Million, are the strongest of the Europeans. Muakaad's status for the Million was downgraded from definite to possible this week.

Guided Tour to Kentucky Cup

Guided Tour will pass the Arlington Million and the Pacific Classic and point to the Sept. 22 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park.

Guided Tour won back-to-back Grade 2 races this summer, the Stephen Foster and most recently the July 21 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington. Earlier in the year Guided Tour, owned by Chicagoan Morton Fink, won the New Orleans and San Antonio handicaps.

Trainer Niall O'Callaghan said the Churchill Downs-based Guided Tour, who has had a long campaign, would benefit from more time between races. "We felt both the races," the Million and the Pacific Classic, "were coming back a bit quick," O'Callaghan said. "This gives him another bit of time, and we get them on our home turf.

"Now is a good time for a break, during the heat of the summer," added O'Callaghan. "He runs fine in the heat, but you keep doing that and you'll get to the bottom of them."

Guided Tour could face Grade 1 winner Include in the Kentucky Cup Classic. Trainer Bud Delp said last month that Include could make his first start back from a layoff in Turfway's signature fall race.

Meanwhile, O'Callaghan said Tijiyr, winner of the Explosive Bid Handicap at Fair Grounds in his U.S. debut this spring, has recovered from an ankle injury and returned to training this week.

- additional reporting by David Grening