08/11/2003 12:00AM

Sulamani looking like a Million


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Painters were out touching up spots inside the grandstand. Floors gleamed under fresh wax. Rows of sprinklers played over the wide swath of lush grass course, and Sulamani came out of his stall for a first look at the Arlington racetrack.

Sulamani's appearance at about 9 a.m. Monday served a fitting signal that the Arlington Million is upon us. Thirteen horses were pre-entered Friday for the 21st Million, which on Saturday brings together by far the strongest field of horses seen for a turf race in this country this season.

Sulamani, last year's French Derby winner, is the most accomplished of them, though the California-based Storming Home may wind up the Million's favorite.

Sulamani finished second in the Arc de Triomphe last fall, a place ahead of the subsequent Breeders' Cup Turf winner High Chaparral, and Godolphin Racing bought him from the Niarchos family weeks after the Arc. Sulamani has made three starts for Godolphin this year, winning in Dubai, finishing fifth in France, and second July 26 at Ascot to Alamshar, perhaps Europe's best horse at 1 1/2 miles right now.

Sulamani arrived here late Saturday night after flying direct from London to Chicago on a private charter. He spent a day and a half in quarantine before being released for exercise Monday at about 8:30. Making the long walk from Arlington's quarantine barn to the racetrack, Sulamani stood briefly at the entrance to the track before jogging slightly less than one lap around Arlington's 1 1/8-mile main track. More greyhound than fullback, Sulamani had his head turned for much of the light exercise, taking in a fresh palette of sights and sounds before heading back to Arlington's barn 1A, where the European invaders for Saturday's International Festival of Racing are being housed in isolation from the general horse population here.

Godolphin ships its horses to race all over the world, and it has standard protocols in place for travel. Sulamani traveled with two English security guards, his Pakistani groom, an exercise rider, and a head lad, Tony Howarth.

"He traveled very well. He drank plenty of water and ate plenty of grass," said Howarth, who has worked with Sulamani since his purchase last fall. "We try to get these horses into the same routine down to the smallest detail when they travel. When you change things, you never know what will happen."

Sulamani's major preparation for the Million was complete before he shipped. Saturday at Newmarket he had his final work before the race, exercising with a horse named Millstreet, his regular work companion.

"By working him with the same horse all the time, we hope we can gauge where we are compared to earlier in the year," Howarth said. "We do feel like he's improving all the time."

Sulamani is the best of eight Europeans pre-entered in the Million. Kaieteur and Paolini, already here, and Olden Times, arriving later Monday, are the other three horses that will attract betting attention Saturday.

Storming Home and The Tin Man are due in from California on Tuesday, while Perfect Soul vans from Canada on Wednesday and Perfect Drift from Kentucky on Thursday. Honor in War, the other North American in the Million, has been training at Arlington.

Heat Haze most likely Frankel runner

The Bobby Frankel watch continues at Arlington. Late Monday morning, Frankel still had not decided which one of the many horses he nominated to the Beverly D. will run, but with dry weather forecast Wednesday through Saturday, Frankel is leaning toward sending Heat Haze from Saratoga.

"I'll have to wait and see what the weather looks like," Frankel said. "If it were soft, I wouldn't prefer any of them."

The $700,000 Beverly D. will have the smallest field among Saturday's three Grade 1's. The probable starters are Dress to Thrill, Dublino, Owsley, Voodoo Dancer, and Walzerkoenigin. Riskaverse is possible, as is Bien Nicole, who worked five furlongs on dirt here Sunday in 1:02.

"Everything went fine in her work," said trainer Donnie Von Hemel. "She's trained well and she's been eating real good."

Cactus Ridge set for Ellis Park Juvenile

Cactus Ridge, freakishly fast on the Beyer Speed Figure scale, was held out of this past weekend's Sapling Stakes at Monmouth and will instead run this weekend in the Ellis Park Juvenile.

Trainer Bret Calhoun originally had targeted the Sapling for Cactus Ridge, who won the fastest Arlington 2-year-old maiden race of this meet, and earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure when he cruised to an easy win in a minor stakes race at Canterbury Park. But Calhoun, looking ahead, changed plans last week.

"To get to the goal, which is the Arlington-Washington Futurity, the seven-furlong race at Ellis then the mile here is probably the better way to go," Calhoun said. "Besides, now he can train at the same track he's been at all along."

Cactus Ridge, by Hennessy, worked five furlongs here Sunday in 1:02.80.

"Everything's gone just as we hoped with his training," Calhoun said.

To the Queen ready to fulfill potential

To the Queen looked like a stakes horse last season. She looked like one Sunday at Arlington, too.

In the second start of her season, To the Queen won an overnight handicap by eight lengths. She did not beat a strong field, but overcame a pressured inside trip and was well within herself while running nine furlongs in 1:50.35.

To the Queen won her maiden and three allowance races in succession last season, but by the time she moved into stakes company she may have been over the top. After finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Anne Arundel on Dec. 14, To the Queen got a lengthy vacation, only returning to the racetrack in May.

"I think she's probably a really nice filly, and she should only get better from here," said Ken McCarthy, trainer Bill Mott's assistant at Churchill Downs, where To the Queen is based. "[Mott] hasn't really mentioned what's next for her yet. He said to get a look at her the next couple days and then we'll see where we're at."