08/08/2007 11:00PM

The Tin Man tackles After Market

Alex Evers/Horsephotos
After Market (above) and The Tin Man make up one-fourth of the 25th Arlington Million field this Saturday.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - John Henry was a 9-year-old when in 1984 he won the Arlington Million for the second time, and his trainer, Ron McAnally, was reached by phone this week for a comment on The Tin Man, another 9-year-old trying to win the Million for the second time. Yes, yes, The Tin Man is a nice horse, said McAnally, who has seen The Tin Man regularly in California. But just as quickly, he threw out another name.

"Marty Wygod has a horse out here named After Market," McAnally said, "and he's pretty good."

Yes, while The Tin Man returns to Arlington trying to become the only horse other than John Henry to win the Million twice, it is his fellow California traveler After Market who really has turned heads this summer. Transferred by owners Pam and Marty Wygod from Hall of Famer Bill Mott to John Shirreffs this past winter, After Market took a couple of starts to find his stride, but has won three in a row - the last two Grade 1's - in brilliant fashion. And After Market, a son of Storm Cat and the excellent racemare Tranqulity Lake, looks the part of a star, a powerfully built dark bay with a huge finishing kick.

"He's got a big, thick body and a heavy chest, really muscular," Shirreffs said this week. "He's just a big robust horse that feels excellent."

After Market and The Tin Man make up one-fourth of the 25th Arlington Million, a race that lured three less-than-top-class Europeans, plus the up-and-coming Sunriver from New York. Jambalaya has been no match for Canada's best grass horse, Sky Conqueror, and is one of the longshots, as is Stream Cat, who finished third and fourth in Grade 3's his last two starts.

The Million goes as race 9 on a 12-race program that begins at 11:45 a.m. Central. It's part of an ABC telecast that runs from 3-5 p.m. Central and also includes the day's other two Grade 1 turf races, the Secretariat (race 7) and the Beverly D. (race 8). The three graded stakes form a pick three with a $250,000 guarantee, while the Million is the first leg of a guaranteed $200,000 pick four.

All three races are part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program; the winners of the Secretariat and the Million earn an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, while the Beverly D. winner is guaranteed a slot in the Filly and Mare Turf.

The "Win and You're In" provision is nullified in the highly unlikely event that any of the races are taken off turf. But, though Saturday's forecast is for sunshine and 85-degree weather, Arlington's turf course was soaked this week, and should be something less than firm on race day.

And that could play havoc with the Million form. The Tin Man has won well on yielding ground before, but After Market fell apart on a boggy Delaware Park grass course last year, and Shirreffs said a wet track was "obviously a concern." After Market easily had won his first four starts before finishing 10th in the Kent Breeders' Cup on soft going, and that race appeared to set him significantly back. He didn't start again until Jan. 31, finishing eighth at Gulfstream Park in his final start for Mott, and he was sixth and fifth in his first two tries in California.

Then, everything came together. After Market scored by two in the Inglewood Handicap, beat the great Lava Man in the Whittingham Handicap, and overcame a slow pace to trounce a good field in the Grade 1 Eddie Read three weeks ago at Del Mar.

"As horses go, you know, sometimes they start to peak, and if you're lucky, they continue to get better and better," Shirreffs said.

The Tin Man might hit an occasional peak or trough, but generally has gone strong since 2002. A 5-1 chance, he won last year's Million by a length, leading all the way.

"I think he's as good as he can be right now," said trainer Dick Mandella.

The Tin Man made an easy lead and backed up the pace here last year, and though Sunriver might show some early speed, he's drawn inside The Tin Man, who can easily press while in the clear.

"He can rate," Mandella said. "There's no problem with that."

Sunriver has led from start to finish in both his starts - including a victory in the Grade 2 Bowling Green - since being switched to turf earlier this summer.

"The good thing is we don't have to deal with the scenario we had last year with The Tin Man being loose on the lead," said trainer Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher acknowledges that Sunriver takes a significant class hike, but says Sunriver is ready.

"I can tell you the horse is doing phenomenally well," he said.

Danak, a lightly raced 4-year-old with 4 wins in 5 starts, might be the most talented of the overseas trio, but he came here seeking firm turf that he might not find. Doctor Dino, who has finished third in a pair of Group 1's this year, might do better if the course is wet.