07/13/2005 12:00AM

Round Table wide open


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The field for Saturday's Round Table Stakes grew steadily this week, and when entries were taken Wednesday, nine were in Arlington's biggest dirt race for 3-year-olds.

While no top-shelf 3-year-old is going to ship in for a $100,000 purse, the Round Table will showcase plenty of horses with upside, horses such as Apache Point, Bob O's Boy, and Thunder Mission. None of these horses have more than six starts.

Joining these three are Devilment, High Expectations, Jazzy Gallop, Read Dandy, Straight Line, and Tupper Lake, all of whom have more experience, and any of whom could win what appears to be a wide-open race.

It's possible that the Steve Asmussen-trained entry of Jazzy Gallop and Real Dandy could be favored in the 1 1/8-mile Round Table. Apache Point's second two weeks ago in the Iowa Derby will earn him some support, and Straight Line, despite a fading fifth in the July 2 Ohio Derby, will also have some backers. Straight Line's trainer, Brian Williamson, wavered on whether to run his horse back on short rest, but after a solid early-week workout, and a clean bill of health, Straight Line was declared fit to start.

"We had some sickness in our barn, just 2-year-olds, but we didn't want to do anything if he was sick," Williamson said. "We scoped him and he's clean, so he's good to go."

Like Straight Line and Apache Point, Thunder Mission earned a spot in the Round Table by working to his trainer's satisfaction this week. Just in from Lone Star, Thunder Mission worked a bullet half-mile here Tuesday in 47.40 seconds.

"I just wanted to make sure he had shipped well and settled in okay," said trainer Mike Stidham, who also starts Devilment in the Round Table.

Thunder Mission enters off a pair of blowout wins in Texas, the first in a maiden race, the more recent in an entry-level allowance. Those performances stand in stark contrast to Thunder Mission's form last year at 2, when he could do no better than third in four starts.

"He had been a real nervous horse in the paddock," Stidham said. "He would wash out like he had gone through a car wash. My assistant, Rigo [Rosas], must have schooled him 50 times before his first race this year."

Cole Express ailing

Cole Express, who came within a couple hundredths of a second of Arlington's 4 1/2-furlong track record in his career debut, was forced out of last Sunday's Bashford Manor Stakes by a minor virus, trainer Mike Puhich said Wednesday.

Cole Express debuted with a four-length win here June 8, and had been pointed since then to the Bashford Manor. He got all the way through a five-furlong breeze on July 1, but "the day before we entered, he was a little sick," Puhich said. "He worked good, but when he had a little temp, we decided not to ship down."

Already recovered, Cole Express will not need much time before he's ready to run. The question is where to run him. There are no significant 2-year-old stakes at Arlington until September, but Puhich said he's considering an overnight stakes here scheduled for the end of July.

Guidry, Hernandez join jockey colony

Longtime jockey agent Fred Aime was sighted at Arlington this week. He brought two riders with him, too. One is Mark Guidry, the one-time Arlington kingpin, and a winner of the third race here Wednesday. It was his first day of regular action, and the first day of Arlington's Summer Festival of Racing, which features purses moderately boosted from early-meet levels.

Aime will also be booking mounts for Brian Hernandez Jr., and said both riders planned to remain at Arlington through the end of the meet.

Another rider here fresh off the Churchill season is Brice Blanc, who is being represented by Dennis Cooper.

Fort Prado on target for Sea o'Erin

Fort Prado, quite possibly the best turf horse in training at Arlington, had his first work since winning the Black Tie Affair Handicap on June 25, breezing a half-mile in 48 seconds last Saturday.

"A little maintenance work is all," trainer Chris Block said.

Fort Prado remains on target to start next on Aug. 6 at Arlington in the Sea o'Erin Mile.

Bluesbdancing preps for comeback

Bluesbdancing, one of the best Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies of 2004, is nearing a comeback race after missing several months with an injury. Bluesbdancing won the Showtime Deb last November at Hawthorne, but hasn't raced since finishing second in an open stakes race Dec. 14 at Charles Town.

Monday, she breezed a half-mile in 47.80 seconds, her second published work this summer.

"She was back galloping in 60 days, so she was in pretty good shape," trainer Terrel Gore said. "She ought to be ready sometime in August. We'll look for an allowance race then."