07/01/2008 12:00AM

Stall brings Lattice for Stars and Stripes


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The trainer Al Stall won 15 races here at Arlington Park during the 2003 meet - but hardly has been seen in these parts since. Beginning the next year, his summer stable was split between Churchill Downs and Louisiana Downs, with Arlington out of the mix. Stall started just six horses here from 2004 to 2006, and did not have an Arlington runner last year.

But he has one now, and a victory Friday in the $175,000 Stars and Stripes Turf Handicap would catapult Lattice toward the top tier of long-distance grass horses in North America.

Stall, a New Orleans native, said the attractive nature of the Louisiana-bred program plus slots-infused purses made Louisiana a better option for him than Chicago when he made the summer switch a few years ago.

"There's the Louisiana-bred money, plus a difference in competition," Stall said. "I think it's worked out. We had Star Guitar and Raspberry Wine, two Louisiana-bred champions last year. Plus, it makes it nice to pick up a condition book at Fair Grounds and not just have horses for half the races."

Lattice, too, is making a return trip to Arlington, his connections hoping this one is better than the last. Lattice won the American Derby here last summer in fine fashion, but was a distant seventh in the Secretariat Stakes, a race run over wet going, and didn't start again until this past March. In the interim, Claiborne Farm - which co-owns Lattice with Adele Dilschneider - moved several horses from Bill Mott to Stall, who got Lattice back to the races March 15, and has overseen the colt's steady forward pattern through three races this year.

Third in his comeback race, which at one mile was shorter than Lattice's best distance, Lattice was a close and somewhat troubled second in a high-end, nine-furlong Keeneland allowance race before capturing the 12-furlong Louisville Handicap on May 24 at Churchill. And Lattice, by Arch and out of a Rahy mare, might be a true long-distance kind of horse.

"He's just a big strong horse, and it seems like he could gallop forever," said Stall. "Training-wise, he's a killer on a daily basis."

Lattice trains at Keeneland, where Claiborne has its own barn. But a win or a strong showing Friday could send Lattice on to Saratoga, where the Grade 1 Sword Dancer would present an appealing option, if Lattice proves good enough.

First, he must get past eight rivals Friday in a solid field that includes the Grade 1 winner Cloudy's Knight.

Leah's Secret headed to Saratoga

Leah's Secret's sharp win Saturday in the Chicago Handicap has earned her a spot on a brighter stage.

"We're going to go to the Ballerina with her," said trainer Todd Pletcher, referring to the Grade 1 sprint stakes at Saratoga Aug. 2. "We're going to go for the big one."

Leah's Secret, who moved into Pletcher's barn just this year, ran perhaps her best race Saturday, rating behind a solid pace in the seven-furlong race before taking over in midstretch. Decent in route races, Leah's Secret seems more comfortable making one run in a one-turn race.

Pletcher said Leah's Secret would train at Arlington until a suitable flight east could be found for her. "We haven't firmed up any shipping plans yet," he said. "When there's any flight going that way, we'll head on over."

Pletcher also said that Meal Penalty, winner of the Arlington Classic, would breeze this weekend, after which his status for the American Derby here would be determined.

Recapturetheglory may try W.Va. Derby

Recapturetheglory, fourth in the June 14 Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill after winning the Illinois Derby and finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, worked a half-mile Saturday at Arlington, and is being pointed to the Aug. 2 West Virginia Derby, trainer and co-owner Louie Roussel said Tuesday.

Recapturetheglory was timed in 48.60 seconds for a half-mile breeze, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.60. Roussel has scheduled three more July works for Recapturetheglory, and if all goes well, the colt will ship to Mountaineer for his next start. Roussel said that James Graham, who worked the horse Saturday, would have the mount.

Four out of six look good

Short fields end up at the front of the racing program this summer at Arlington, even if - like Thursday's first race - they offer the highest-class fare on the card.

Race 1 is carded for third-level allowance horses or $50,000 claimers over six furlongs on Polytrack. It got just six entries, but minimal horseflesh does not mean easy handicapping, and while Zoeling and Muted Word look like outsiders, the other four can win.

Shark prefers second-place finishes to wins, but ran well in his lone prior Arlington Polytrack start. Both horses from the Tom Amoss barn, stalker John's Road and front-end type Tempo Five, fit the spot, and long layoff horse To Sender should be coming late.