05/07/2006 11:00PM

Purim's win signifies big things to come


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Purim was a well-backed horse when he raced last summer on Arlington Million Day in the Grade 1 Secretariat, and based on the appearance he made winning a restricted turf stakes at Arlington on Sunday, Purim is not more than a couple notches below a horse worthy of being considered for the Million itself.

Purim wound up seventh in the Secretariat, racing too aggressively in the early going, tiring in the stretch, and ending a string of four strong showings to start his career. Purim is a bi-surface kind of horse, and after the Secretariat, trainer Tom Proctor ran Purim on dirt six times in a row, coming up with a good win March 12 in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park. But Sunday, going off at 3-5 in a stakes restricted to Illinois-owned horses, Purim looked every bit the grass horse, settling in nicely behind a lone speed horse, and finishing like gangbusters to win - going away - by more than three lengths.

"He was so kind for me today," said jockey Robby Albarado, who came up from Kentucky to ride Purim. "They said he could be a little aggressive, but he really relaxed."

Proctor, who plans to keep Purim on turf, agreed with that assessment.

"It was good to see him sitting like that," he said. "He's a lot more settled now, and it makes him a better horse."

Proctor said he had no set plans for Purim, but if the horse is to run in a graded turf stakes before July, it will not be at Arlington. The first such race on the local calendar is the July 2 Stars and Stripes, and that is at 1 1/2 miles.

Fort Prado missed an opportunity

Fort Prado was scratched from the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Saturday at Churchill Downs because he had developed an abscess in his right front foot the day before, Arlington-based trainer Chris Block said Sunday.

Fort Prado has won three straight turf stakes, and the Grade 1 Turf Classic, won by English Channel, could have shown whether Fort Prado, much improved since last season, could hang with some of the best grass horses in the country.

"It's frustrating," said Block. "We didn't send him all the way there to scratch."

Fort Prado had been preparing for the Turf Classic with trainer Jeff Trosclair at Louisiana Downs. That was where the horse spent most of the winter, since Block himself stays year-round in Chicago and did not believe Fort Prado needed a significant break from racing. Fort Prado was to have returned to Block's barn at Arlington on Sunday night.

"Hopefully, we'll get him back here, and in a few days we'll have this all sorted out," Block said, adding that he had no specific races firmly in mind for Fort Prado's next start.

Sweet Sugaree set to rebound

Sweet Sugaree, no worse for wear after a distant eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Ashland on April 8 at Keeneland, is training away at Arlington for her next race, which could come as soon as next week in a Churchill Downs allowance, trainer Bobby Springer said.

Sweet Sugaree won her maiden at Louisiana Downs against the good filly Ermine, who finished a close second Friday in the Kentucky Oaks. She then set a frenzied early pace and held on well for second in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn, her first two-turn start, before the disappointing outing in the Ashland.

"If you didn't have speed and the fence that day, you were in trouble," Springer said.

Sweet Sugaree didn't break as sharply as she had in her three previous starts, chased a hot pace, and faded late. And Springer, who developed War Emblem before turning the colt over to Bob Baffert a couple weeks before the 2002 Kentucky Derby, still thinks Sweet Sugaree, who worked a bullet half-mile here April 28, is a nice filly.

Leaderboard looks familiar

The top of the jockey and trainer standings after one three-day week of the Arlington meet look just like they did after 2 1/2 months of the National Jockey Club meet at Hawthorne. Chris Emigh leads all riders with seven wins, while Tom Tomillo has started three times as many horses as any other trainer, and leads the pack with four victories.

Wayne Catalano, perennial leading trainer at Arlington, has so far sent out only five starters, winning with two of them - but can his annual onslaught be far off? Catalano has just two horses entered on the Wednesday card, but both should win. Rooville looks like a 1-5 shot in race 9, a bottom-level claiming sprint, while recent $50,000 claim Sku seems like the horse to beat in the featured eighth, a second-level turf allowance at one and one-eighth miles.

The feature drew only seven horses, and the race lacks any real early speed, but even without a legit pace at which to run, Sku, who has two local works since shipping north, should be difficult to beat.