08/19/2007 11:00PM

Pitamakan's record nets low Beyer


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Pitamakan set an Arlington Park Polytrack record for 1 1/16 miles winning the Hatoof Stakes wire to wire on Sunday, but she didn't impress the Beyer Speed Figure makers, earning only an 88 Beyer for her meet-best time.

Moreover, Pitamakan perhaps was not not even the most impressive horse in the Hatoof, which was moved from grass to Polytrack because of persistent rain. You Go West Girl, the 4-5 Hatoof favorite, uncorked a furious rally in the final quarter-mile, falling one length short in a race that ended at the normal sixteenth pole.

Pitamakan, timed in 1:41.49, set her track record on a Polytrack that was playing very fast - thus the somewhat low Beyer Figure - and benefited when Dashes N Dots, another front-runner, stumbled at the start and was nowhere near the early pace. Still, Pitamakan has won all three of her races this season after losing her only start last year at 2, and carried her strong turf form to Arlington's all-weather surface.

"She was game," winning trainer Bill Mott said from Saratoga. "Another turf horse that takes to the Polytrack. I'd heard people say that they didn't know if there was a connection, but the only horses I've had win on the Polytrack are turf horses, so I can tell you what I think."

The Hatoof was a prep for the Sept.o8 Pucker Up Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies, but Mott would say only that Pitamakan was a possible starter there.

Tom Proctor, who trains You Go West Girl, hopes Pitamakan runs. Proctor has been pointing You Go West Girl to the Pucker Up, and hopes there is pace in the race to stay with Dreaming of Anna, who won the nine-furlong Virginia Oaks on grass in front-running fashion in her last start.

"I'd like to see [Pitamakan] back up for the Pucker Up, and a couple more [speed horses] too," Proctor said. "Dreaming of Anna's going to need a little company, right?"

Pitamakan's was not the only Polytrack record Sunday. Smack Daddy won a five-furlong maiden race in 56.51 seconds, also the fastest time of the meet.

Lethal breakdowns down, not gone

The investment of about $11 million Churchill Downs Inc. made in Arlington's new Polytrack surface came about in great part because of safety concerns raised here last summer, but a recent series of racing injuries has highlighted the fact that horses can get hurt on any surface.

In the last two racing weeks, comprising 10 days, six horses either were pulled up or broke down during races. Of those, at least three had to be euthanized, most recently a horse named High Pay in last Friday's second race. High Pay's breakdown caused meet-ending injuries to his rider, Israel Ocampo, as well as Uriel Lopez, who was riding a trailing horse.

Still, even with four fatal racing breakdowns in the last month, eight in July and August, plus another horse in that period who had to be put down after breaking his fetlock during morning work, deadly injuries are tracking below last year's rate, when 22 horses had to be put down after suffering injuries during a race. One of those deaths came about when one horse ran into another that already had broken down.

Through Aug. 20 last year, 20 horses had suffered fatal injuries during racing. The number through Aug. 19 at this meet is 14, but two of those horses went down on turf, and a third died of a pulmonary hemorrhage unrelated to track surface. So, with three weeks left in the 2007 meet, 11 horses have been put down because of leg injuries that occurred in Polytrack races. Three more suffered fatal injuries during training at the meet.

Without a sudden spike in equine racing deaths, the 2007 meet will wind up looking similar to 2005, when just 12 horses were euthanized because of racing injuries. In 2004, however, there were 24 fatal racing injuries, an even greater number than the 22 last year that spurred the conversion from dirt to Polytrack.

Three jockeys injured

Three riders suffered injuries last week that will keep them out of action through the end of the Arlington meet, and perhaps beyond.

Ocampo, who won the riding title last spring at Hawthorne, suffered the most serious injuries, apparently when he was kicked in the face after going down on High Pay last Friday. Ocampo's agent, Jodie Sinclair, said Ocampo had suffered a broken jaw and cheekbone in addition to losing three teeth, and had reconstructive surgery to repair the damage on Friday night.

"He's going to be fine," Sinclair said on Saturday. "He's tough as nails. He looked a lot better today even than he did yesterday."

Lopez, whose horse fell, had a pin surgically inserted to repair a broken thumb, and also suffered a collapsed lung and broken ribs in the Friday spill. His agent, John Christiano, said Lopez was "in good spirits" over the weekend and hoped that Lopez would be back in action the in late September at Hawthone.

On Thursday, Cecilio Penalba let his mount Classic Canyon drift out at the top of the stretch, clipping heels and going down at about the three-sixteenths pole. Penalba, who was ninth in the jockey standings, hurt his back, knee, and face, and also will not ride again here this season.

o Marietta, who comfortably won the Arlington Oaks on Saturday, "came out of the race in great shape," according to trainer Eoin Harty, and was scheduled to ship back to Saratoga on Tuesday.

"I haven't really thought about where to go next," Harty said. "Once she ships back, we'll go over her and I'll try to come up with a game plan."

* Wednesday's eight-race card, with a post time of "shortly after 1 p.m."

advertised over the weekend on Arlington in-house television, includes no allowance races of any sort.