09/14/2007 12:00AM

Purim needs better effort

EmailARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - There really is no question that at his best, Purim would make short work of the John Henry Stakes. The question is whether Purim will produce something close to his best on Sunday, closing day at the Arlington Park 2007 race meet.

The John Henry, a $45,000 overnight stakes carded for 1 1/16 miles on turf, goes as race 9 - the meet's next-to-last event - and drew a field of nine, including the Moises Yanez-trained coupled entry of Rey Del Sol and Majestic Zeal.

Purim looks like the favorite, but he will have to do much better than his most recent performance at Arlington, a dull eighth-place finish May 26 in the Hanshin Cup. And neither was Purim especially sharp in his first race after the Hanshin, finishing seventh of eight on Aug. 25 in the Play the King Stakes, a seven-furlong turf race at Woodbine.

But that is the "bad" Purim. The "good" Purim was third, beaten less than a length and gaining slightly on Kip Deville and Showing Up, in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile on April 13 at Keeneland. Purim has won graded stakes on turf as well as dirt, having captured the Razorback Handicap in 2006 at Oaklawn Park, and in three Arlington grass races he has won twice and finished second once.

The Play the King was contested on soft going, and trainer Tom Proctor almost certainly had not fully tightened the screws for Purim's first race back from a break. Purim worked a swift five furlongs on Polytrack here Sept. 11, and gets the benefit of the doubt as the pick to win the John Henry.

Purim, who will be ridden by Jamie Theriot, appears to perform best from a stalking position, and he should have a fair pace at which to aim on Sunday. General Charley has an inside post, a jockey (E.T. Baird) adept at breaking horses from the gate, and he should show early speed. So should Finance Minister, who regularly has run sub-46-second half-miles in sprint races, and figures to be used to gain early position from his draw on the far outside.

Should Purim fail to fire or run into bad luck, Prospective Kiss could capitalize. Claimed during the Oaklawn Park meet for $65,000 by the Jer-Mar Stable, Prospective Kiss had a productive summer at Canterbury Park, winning two grass races and finishing second to a loose-on-the-lead General Charley in another. Prospective Kiss drew the rail for Sunday's race, and could wind up with an ideal pocket trip under jockey Chris Emigh.