08/05/2005 12:00AM

Purim still just a maybe to start in Secretariat Stakes


CHICAGO - Of the 34 horses considered possible starters in Arlington's International Festival of Racing next Saturday, only four are actually at Arlington Park right now. Miss Terrible has been pointed for a couple of months to the Beverly D. Handicap and has been working regularly here toward that start. Three other horses currently at Arlington - Merger, Cosmic Kris, and Purim - could face favored English Channel in the Secretariat Stakes.

Purim appears to be the best of that trio, but trainer Tom Proctor hasn't yet committed to a Secretariat start.

"If I enter him Wednesday, then he'll be in, and if I don't, he won't," said Proctor. "Right now I'm just watching everybody to see what happens."

Purim won his first three starts, including the Arlington Classic, before taking a nose loss to likely Secretariat starter Gun Salute in the American Derby. Purim has come a long way in a short time, and Proctor said he would prefer more time between starts. He acknowledged, however, that it would be difficult to pass up a $400,000 race that is held a couple of hundred yards from Purim's stall.

"I'm kind of looking at the Del Mar Derby, but I'd have to ship for that," Proctor said. "He's doing fine, but I'll be seeing how the horse breezes on Sunday."

Also considered possible for the Secretariat are Chattahoochee War, Mesawmi, Rush Bay, and Grand Central.

Better Talk Now one of 10 pre-entered

As of 3 p.m. Friday at Arlington, 10 horses had been pre-entered in the Million. Pre-entries, including a $5,000 fee, were due by midnight Saturday. The actual field for the Million - as well as the Beverly D. and the Secretariat - will be drawn early Wednesday afternoon.

Included in the entries is Better Talk Now, but not his rabbit, Shake the Bank, who last month set up the United Nations Handicap for a Better Talk Now victory. Christopher Dwyer, one of three partners who race Better Talk Now as Bushwood Racing Partners, lives in nearby Winnetka, Ill., and delivered Better Talk Now's pre-entry check himself Friday afternoon. Better Talk Now could still opt for the Sword Dancer next weekend at Belmont, the spot to which trainer Graham Motion has pointed him.

The others pre-entered in the Million so far are Cool Conductor, Fourty Niners Son, Good Reward, Kitten's Joy, Sweet Return, Whilly, and the European trio of Powercourt, Alost, and Touch of Land.

Two Bobby Frankel-trained horses, Leroidesanimaux and King's Drama, had been expected for the Million, but neither was entered by mid-afternoon Friday.

Eight European-based horses, including four for the Beverly D., were to begin arriving here Saturday night.

Rocky River on target for return to stakes

Rocky River, one of the top 2-year-olds here last season, has battled physical problems since fading in last September's Arlington-Washington Futurity, but won an allowance race two weeks ago and will return to stakes racing in an overnight stakes on the Arlington Million Day card, trainer Don Von Hemel said.

"He'll have one more work and then be ready to go," Von Hemel said.

Maiden sets track record

A track record for the rarely run distance of 7 1/2 furlongs was established in Thursday's first race - by a maiden. The Arlington racetrack has played very fast during the last several racing days, and the strip was lighting-quick to start the Thursday card, with a Tony Mitchell-trained horse, Land Mine, stopping the clock in 1:28.45 while winning by just a nose. Road Show, who finished second, logged a six-furlong fraction of 1:08.65, which would have been among the fastest six-furlong times this entire meet.