05/15/2003 12:00AM

There's Zealous obvious horse for the course

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The conditions of Arlington's Saturday feature say it's an allowance race, but the quality says stakes.

There were 10 horses entered in the seven-furlong race for nonwinners of two high-end races since the first of the year. Only Apt to Be runs under a $100,000 claiming option. Apt to Be, There's Zealous, and Bright Valour form the nucleus of an outstanding field.

There's Zealous trains in Kentucky with Paul McGee, but he loves Arlington. Of his six career wins, four have come in seven Arlington starts.

There's Zealous turned in one of the more impressive performances here last season when facing a quality field in the Aug. 17 Cigar Handicap. He sprinted out to an early lead and never slowed down, winning by six lengths and completing one mile in 1:33.60, a world-class time.

There's Zealous burned up the track that day, but got too hot a month later at Turfway Park. There, he faded to finish sixth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic and developed heat stroke when trying to cool out after the race, McGee said.

"It was a short-lived thing, and then we just decided to give him some time," McGee said. "We gave him a month off, and we've been bringing him back slow."

There was no reason to rush There's Zealous back, since McGee figured he could have his best season this year at age 5. There's Zealous is bred to bloom late as a son of Broad Brush, and it was only last fall that he came into peak form.

"He has been training really good," said McGee, who will focus on one-turn races for There's Zealous this season. "The times we've run him two turns, he hasn't been quite as effective."

If There's Zealous returns sharp, he could be part of a wicked early pace Saturday - Meadowminer, Apt to Be, and Magic Doe all prefer racing on or near the lead. Bright Valour should come from behind, as he did in a powerful win April 25 at Hawthorne. Purchased privately last winter by Ronnie Lamarque and trained now by Louie Roussel, Bright Valour showed signs of life early this year at Fair Grounds before posting an explosive 8 1/4-length victory last month.

Apt to Be, owned by Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois, has won 5 of 7 starts here.

* Arlington permanently removed its finish wire after training hours Tuesday. "With the technology now, you really no longer need the wire," said Frank Gabriel, Arlington's vice president of racing.

The wire got in the way of moving the gate in 1 1/8-mile races. "Nothing ever happened, but there was a safety issue," Gabriel said.

* Mynameischase won the seventh race here Wednesday and paid $242.80, the highest win payoff here in years. His upset victory in a statebred allowance race triggered payoffs on two of three winners in several pick three wagers and a payoff on three of four winners in the pick four.