08/08/2005 12:00AM

Purim works, maybe for Secretariat

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photos
Better Talk Now (right), winning the United Nations, is unlikely to run in the Arlington Million.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The $400,000 Secretariat Stakes lost a top horse in Rush Bay over the weekend, but gained another prospective starter, with the California-based Legal Precedent now being considered for Saturday's race. And on Sunday, Purim, who would be among the Secretariat favorites if he runs, breezed an easy five furlongs on turf, though trainer Tom Proctor is still unwilling to commit to the race.

Proctor and owner E.J. Suckley looked on from the stands late during Sunday training hours as Purim went through his paces on turf. Purim was given a time of 1:06.80, the slowest allowable five-furlong time in the computerized system used by clockers, but he worked even slower. Such slow times, however, are the norm in Arlington turf works, since orange cones are placed far out on the course, turning a five-furlong work into something like 5 1/2 furlongs.

Besides, Purim did little more than gallop strongly during the work's first 3 1/2 furlongs. Purim's exercise rider allowed him to pick up the pace in the stretch, and Purim quickly accelerated, getting his final furlong in about 11 seconds.

"We didn't want him to do too much," Proctor said. "He's been going all summer."

Purim easily won his first three starts, including the Arlington Classic, but was beaten a nose last out by Secretariat hopeful Gun Salute in the American Derby. Proctor has expressed concern about running Purim back Saturday on only three weeks' rest, but seems to be leaning toward a start.

"As long as everything's good, we'll see what happens," was Proctor's cryptic comment.

Rush Bay won the Jefferson Cup on June 18 at Churchill, but ran poorly in the Virginia Derby, finishing eighth, and shortly thereafter trainer Tom Amoss discovered why.

"He was a little sick before the Virginia Derby," Amoss said Sunday. "He had a throat infection we didn't catch going into it, and he scoped bad after the race. We thought we had it cleared up, but it still hasn't resolved itself. It might have even resolved itself by now, but I've missed too much time with him."

Amos said Rush Bay would soon resume serious training, but added that he had no immediate plans.

Legal Precedent, a lightly raced horse trained by Ben Cecil, finished second in a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in his most recent start. He worked on turf Sunday at Del Mar and was expected to be headed to Arlington as long as he exited the breeze in good shape.

Others expected for the Secretariat are likely favorite English Channel, Chattahoochee War, the Irish-based Grand Central, and Merger.

Better Talk Now unlikely for Million

The Arlington Million is set to go with nine starters Saturday, with Better Talk Now's connections almost certain to opt for the Sword Dancer at Saratoga, also Saturday. Better Talk Now was pre-entered - at a cost of $5,000 - for the Million, and his name will be among the entries drawn Wednesday, but trainer Graham Motion said Better Talk now was 90-percent certain to run at Saratoga.

"Our goal always has been to have him as fresh as possible for the Breeders' Cup," Motion said. "Win, lose, or draw, to ship and run at Arlington against better competition would probably be harder on the horse."

Barring a last-minute change of heart from the Better Talk Now camp, the Million field looks like this: from the U.S., Cool Conductor, Fourty Niners Son, Good Reward, Kitten's Joy, Sweet Return and Whilly; and the trans-Atlantic shippers Alost, Powerscourt, and Touch of Land.

Melhor Ainda one of three for Frankel

Bobby Frankel said Sunday that he would have three horses for Saturday's graded stakes, with Melhor Ainda and Chattahoochee War coming from New York and Megahertz shipping in from California.

Melhor Ainda and Megahertz will be part of one of the best Beverly D. fields. As of Monday, the race had 11 possible starters, with Angara, Halo Ola, Miss Terrible, Mona Lisa, Sundrop, Tarfah, Wend, and Wonder Again joining the Frankel pair.

Mona Lisa, Sundrop, and Tarfah are Europeans. Sundrop, who arrived Saturday, galloped on Arlington's main track Monday.

"She shipped well enough, ate up and everything," said Tony Howarth, who traveled with Sundrop for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The eight European horses expected to start Saturday will all have settled in here by Monday night.

Fort Prado looking good after victory

Fort Prado was happily scouring his straw bedding for strands of hay Sunday morning, still fresh after the biggest win of his career, a 1 1/2-length victory in Saturday's Sea O'Erin Handicap.

"He comes out of races really consistently," said trainer Chris Block. "He ate up last night and cooled out real fast. All seems to be in really good shape."

A 4-year-old Illinois-bred, Fort Prado has won all four of his starts this season, and plans for the rest of the year are fluid.

"The race I had in mind is the Carey at Hawthorne, which is in seven weeks," Block said. "But we need to sit down and talk about whether we want to put something in the middle of that or just wait."

Unbridled Danz targeting Pucker Up

Arlington-based Unbridled Danz remained unbeaten in three career starts after a comfortable win Saturday in the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park and is a candidate for the Grade 3 Pucker Up Handicap here Sept. 17, trainer Becky Maker said.

An Unbridled's Song filly owned by Stan Fulton, Unbridled Danz led all the way in the Audubon Oaks, though she was obviously looking around in the stretch, not fully focused on the task at hand - which is kind of scary, considering how easily she won.

"She was still a little green," Maker said. "Her first race she was green down the lane; second time she was much more focused. I think this time, being at a new track, she was just looking around at her surroundings."

Back home at Arlington, Unbridled Danz will start gearing up for a fall campaign, with major races perhaps on the horizon.

"Every rider that's been on her said she could be anything," said Maker.

Fifteen Rounds shows off blazing speed

Fifteen Rounds ran the fastest six furlongs of this meet, 1:08.46, winning a high-end allowance race Friday, and earned a spot in the $150,000 Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint on Aug. 27.

Fifteen Rounds is flourishing this summer after struggling this year and is ready to take on all comers in his move back into an open stakes race later this month.

"They better have their dancing shoes on is all I can say," said trainer Christine Janks.

Drysdale given seven-day suspension

After more than two years of legal wrangling, trainer Neil Drysdale was handed a seven-day suspension, running from Dec. 18 to Dec. 24, for Flying Dash's positive drug test after he won the 2002 Hawthorne Derby.

Flying Dash, since deceased, tested positive for the banned race-day medications clenbuterol and acepromezine metabolite, and Drysdale originally was suspended 45 days and fined $2,500.

Purse money from the race was held up during the lengthy appeals process, but Terrel Gore, who trained the second-place finisher, Scooter Roach, and co-owned him with his wife, Lizbeth, soon will have in hand an extra $87,500 after he pays the jockey's mount on Scooter Roach.

"Three and a half years, but wasn't a whole lot I could do about it," Gore said. "It was always between the racing board and them."