01/03/2007 12:00AM

A race pops up for Big Prairie

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Rusty Arnold had Big Prairie ready to go last month in the Grade 2 McKnight Handicap at Calder, but the race came off the turf. It was the same story for a $50,000 race later at Calder. Scratched from both spots, Big Prairie might have had to wait until the Jan. 28 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream Park for a race, but then a cozy little allowance race popped up Friday, and Arnold said to count him in.

A fourth-level allowance, the race has a $51,500 purse and will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

"The distance might be just a little short for him, but he's ready to run, and this should really set us up right for that race at the end of the month," Arnold said.

Big Prairie, a 5-year-old Danzig horse bred and owned by Dinwiddie Farm, looks like the horse to beat among a field of 10 older horses entered in the seventh of nine Friday races. Since returning last April from a lengthy layoff caused by a condylar fracture, the horse has steadily improved, knocking out his first three allowance conditions in the span of four races to close out his 2006 season. His most recent start ended in a narrow victory on Nov. 11 at Churchill Downs.

"I'm hoping to make it through this year with him as a very solid graded stakes horse," said Arnold. "He'd have to pick it up to compete with the very best, but he isn't far at all from being a consistent Grade 3-type of horse."

Big Prairie will break from post 5 under Javier Castellano.

Among his top challengers on Friday are Electric Light, a Marty Wolfson-trained horse who was awarded a victory by disqualification on Dec. 14 at Calder; Ancient Myth, who had a three-race win streak snapped in his last race, an overnight turf stakes at Calder; Greek Sun, a lightly raced Danzig 6-year-old who probably needed his last race, at Churchill, and adds John Velazquez for this race; and Contante, a winner over the Aqueduct turf in his last start.

Completing the field are Teofilo, Mending Fences, Famous Frolic, Demeteor, and Sir Jackie.

The conditions for the race also include a $100,000 claiming option.

The Friday card has one other allowance, race 9, for a $46,000 purse on the turf.