05/16/2005 11:00PM

Quality card for a weekday

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CHICAGO - Seventy-two horses were entered for a nine-race card Thursday at Arlington Park, and while the 8.3 horses-per-race average is just fine, it's the program's quality that really shines. Arlington will pay out almost $200,000 in purses on a card featuring four allowance races and one tasty Illinois-bred turf maiden - an early-season bonanza at a meet that's not supposed to rev up until June.

The day's highest-class race is the sixth, a third-level sprint allowance with a $50,000 claiming option, but handicappers will find only six betting interests here. Two come from the barn of trainer Christine Janks, who has the race's controlling speed, . Fifteen Rounds should, however, win at a short price. He starts for the $50,000 claiming tag, a drop in class that combined with a projected trip running loose will make him hard to catch.

The seventh is for Illinois-bred second-level allowance horses, and figures to have stakes-dropper might be that horse.

The eighth, an open second-level allowance at a mile on dirt, presents the opposite situation: a pace overload. Perfect Sand, Gin Real Officer, Gimme an A, and Pirate Ship - half of the eight-horse field - need to race on or near the lead. The betting public might presume Kuch and his last-race Beyer Speed Figure of 100 to be the obvious beneficiary. But the pick in the eighth is Long Pond, who returns to dirt, his preferred surface, after a pair of turf races at Gulfstream. Long Pond, from the barn of Tony Reinstedler, has the look of a horse perfectly suited to the particular demands of an Arlington one-turn mile.

The statebred-restricted turf maiden goes as the fifth race, and calls for careful scrutiny. Trainer Chris Block, off to a good start at Arlington, has two viable contenders, High Chant and Lighthouse Lady, but the unlucky filly Gender Navy gets her first shot on grass and is sitting on a win for trainer Mickey Goldfine.