08/08/2005 11:00PM

Shipping is extra challenge for Euros

Kitten's Joy (right) works under Edgar Prado on Tuesday on the Oklahoma turf training course at Saratoga. They encountered some geese on the track's far turn and had to steady briefly.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Of 162 foreign horses that have through the years traveled to Arlington Park for the three turf stakes that make up Saturday's International Festival of Racing, 10 have left winners. Foreigners have won six of 22 Arlington Millions, three of 15 Beverly D.'s, and one Secretariat, though that race had no European invasion until fairly late in its history.

It is not just world-class talent required of these animals. They must be smarter and stouter than the average racehorse if they are to ship overseas, drop into a strange environment, and run a winning race.

Just last month, Dayano, who had come here from Germany for the Arlington Handicap - and, if that went well, the Million - broke down under the rigors of shipping. He became sick shortly after arriving, and wound up at a veterinary clinic instead of the starting gate.

The last batch of this year's Europeans - trainer Aidan O'Brien's three-horse string - arrived here Monday afternoon, and so far all is well. Seven Europeans - Alost, Powerscourt, and Touch of Land for the Million; Mona Lisa, Sundrop, and Tarfah for the Beverly D.; and Grand Central for the Secretariat - have flown in since Saturday afternoon. Merger came a month ago, shipping well but finishing a flat fifth in the American Derby.

Upon arrival, Europeans go directly into a quarantine barn supervised by track security and officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Blood is drawn, and only after it has tested clean can the horses venture onto one of Arlington's two tracks for training. And there, on a small, horse-crowded strip of dirt, things can get really crazy for a European horse accustomed to quiet days in the countryside. The idea is to find a horse whose body and mind can adapt.

Godolphin won last year's Beverly D. with Crimson Palace, and has sent the 4-year-old Sundrop for this year's edition. Second in last year's English 2000 Guineas, Sundrop got her first look at the racetrack Monday morning, and had an uneventful Tuesday, galloping with the first set of horses at 5:30 a.m.

"She was very relaxed," said Tony Howarth, a head lad for Godolphin who has been here before. "She was alert, but not overhyped. She's really easy-going and has a good mind, which is why she was picked out for a race like this."

Touch of Land, who finished 11th in the 2003 Million as a much greener 3-year-old, went to the track for the first time Tuesday, and spent one lap bucking before settling into a rhythm his second time around.

On Wednesday, the filly Tarfah schools in the starting gate, equipped with a security blanket she wears, and it will be of interest to see how she handles the experience.

The O'Brien trio - Powerscourt, Mona Lisa, and Grand Central - won't leave the barn until a dirt gallop plotted for Thursday, and they will train on grass Friday morning. By then, it will be fairly clear which of the Europeans are ready to run Saturday, and which have left their race on the other side of the ocean.

Kitten's Joy has close encounter with geese

Someone finally found something to slow down Kitten's Joy.

In his last workout before Saturday's Arlington Million, Kitten's Joy had to navigate through a flock of geese on the Oklahoma turf training course at Saratoga in a five-furlong workout timed in 1:04.23. It was the slowest work of 14 at the distance.

Jockey Edgar Prado was aboard for the work and said he had to steady Kitten's Joy around the far turn so as not to startle the geese. Prado feared the geese would fly in the horse's face. He said the geese did part and created an opening for him, and that the horse finished the work without a problem.

"It was a little slower than we wanted, but we had some problems with geese on the track," trainer Dale Romans said. "They weren't moving and Edgar had to stop and check. But he's done enough. Edgar said 'Don't worry about it, he's fine.' "

Kitten's Joy was scheduled to ship from Saratoga to Chicago on Wednesday.

Angara brings big turn of foot to Beverly D.

Nearly four months have passed since Angara ran perhaps the most visually impressive race of the year in an otherwise nondescript allowance race on the Blue Grass Stakes undercard on the Keeneland turf course. Appearing hopelessly beaten after turning into the stretch, Angara flew past nine rivals as if they were standing still in a breathtaking 2 1/4-length victory.

"She has a huge turn of foot when she is in form," said trainer Patrick Biancone. "And she is in great form coming into this weekend."

Angara has yet to fully duplicate the flamboyance of that victory, but she has established herself as a player in the upper ranks of North America's filly-mare turf division. Saturday, the British-bred filly will give Megahertz and several other divisional standouts a go in the $750,000 Beverly D.

After her flashy allowance score, Angara, owned by Martin Schwartz, won the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland, then was a fast-closing second in the Sheepshead Bay at Belmont. She next ran a respectable fifth behind males in the Grade 1 Manhattan, after which she got "a couple of easy weeks," said Biancone. She returned with an evenly paced third in the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga on July 30.

"Hopefully that will be her step-up race," said Biancone. "We expect a very big race from her this weekend. It's a tough race; they're the best fillies in the country, and some good European ones, too. But I wouldn't change places with anyone."

Besides Angara and the Bobby Frankel-trained duo of Megahertz and Melhor Ainda, the field for the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. also is expected to include Halo Ola, Miss Terrible, Mona Lisa, Sundrop, Tarfah, Wend, and Wonder Again.

Melhor Ainda and Mona Lisa will attempt to become the first 3-year-old to win the Beverly D. in the race's 16-year history.

Biancone said he will not travel to Chicago for the race but will be represented by his daughter Mary.

English Channel may be scaring off rivals

With English Channel looming as a major presence, the field for the third Grade 1 race on Saturday's card, the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes, appears to be coming up somewhat short.

Arlington racing officials said Tuesday that the probable field for the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat includes no more than seven 3-year-olds: English Channel, Chattahoochee War, Grand Central, Gun Salute, Legal Precedent, Merger, and Purim.

English Channel, trained by Todd Pletcher, already is halfway home to a massive payday, having won the Colonial Cup and Virginia Derby. If English Channel can win the Secretariat and the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park, to complete a four-race sweep, he will earn a total of $5 million in purse winnings and Grand Slam of Grass bonuses offered by Jacobs Investments.

English Channel, owned by James Scatuorchio, was among the large shipment of horses scheduled to be sent on a charter flight from upstate New York to Chicago on Wednesday.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee and David Grening