08/10/2005 11:00PM

Secretariat step toward bonus


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When officials from Jacobs Investments held a press conference at Pimlico the day before the May 21 Preakness, they could not have known how much impact their unveiling of a new bonus offering would carry into August.

But here comes , halfway home to a $5 million payday - and a solid favorite to make it three-quarters. If English Channel can duplicate his victories in the Colonial Cup and Virginia Derby by capturing the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes on Saturday at Arlington Park, he will have to win just one more race, the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup Turf, to take down the Jacobs bonus in its very first year.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, English Channel's prospects of advancing to the Breeders' Cup as a legitimate challenger are not that far-fetched. Last year, Kitten's Joy won the Secretariat (in faster time than the Arlington Million) en route to becoming the odds-on favorite in the BC Turf, in which he would finish second. If English Channel can be similarly impressive here Saturday, suddenly the Jacobs folks might find themselves carefully scrutinizing the insurance policy they purchased to cover a potential sweep. (The $5 million is a combination of purse earnings and bonus.)

Seven other 3-year-olds will try to keep the situation from getting that deep.

Foremost among the opposition for English Channel in the $400,000 Secretariat are , the one-two finishers in the recent American Derby over the Arlington turf course; Chattahoochee War, runner-up to English Channel in the July 16 Virginia Derby; and Grand Central.

The balance of the field for the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat is Legal Precedent, Merger, and Embossed.

, a California invader trained by Ben Cecil, brings a remarkable record into the Secretariat: All four of his previous races have resulted in a Beyer Speed Figure of 86.

"I'm wondering if the figures have been worked around my horse every race," said Cecil. "I know it will probably take a lot more than an 86 to win Saturday, but this horse has been crying out for more distance. He should be suited by the mile and a quarter and the sweeping turns they have at Arlington. I don't know if he's good enough to beat English Channel, but he deserves a chance."

English Channel, with 5 wins from 6 starts, also seems to have room to improve. In view of the way he has dominated his last four races, English Channel certainly appears capable of earning a better Beyer than his lifetime high of 93. John Velazquez has the mount.

The Secretariat, the last of the three Turf Festival events, is the 11th of 12 Saturday races, with post time set for 5:53 p.m. Central.

The field

Secretariat Stakes
Purse: $400,000; 1 1/4 Miles, turf; Grade 1

1 English ChannelJ. Velazquez1262-1
2 PurimM. Guidry1215-2
3 Gun SaluteC. Velasquez1233-1
4 Grand CentralK. Fallon11910-1
5 Legal PrecedentA. Solis11915-1
6 MergerD. Holland11915-1
7 Chattahoochee WarP. Valenzuela1215-1
8 EmbossedE. Prado11930-1

* Blinkers on: Grand Central, Merger
* Track odds