06/26/2005 11:00PM

An undefeated duo leading the Janks charge


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Whatever set of stars has aligned, whatever pattern some spread tea leaves have formed, Christine Janks hopes the fates keep Arlington's horse racing world ordered just as it has been through the first six weeks of this meet.

After last week's racing, Janks had won 15 races (good for second in the standings behind the runaway train known as the Wayne Catalano barn) from 54 starters, and 36 of her horses had finished third or better. Her stable's $409,974 in purses is the best at Arlington. On Saturday, Janks sent out a pair of stakes winners on the Prairie State Festival card, and one of them, Pretty Jenny, is one of two horses in her care who sport perfect 4-for-4 records.

"The chances of having two horses undefeated and 4 for 4, it's astronomical," Janks said, sitting in her barn office after training hours Monday. "But that's the way things have been going. The bubble is very fragile. We always worry about it bursting."

Janks swept the pair of Prairie State 3-year-old races, taking the filly version with Pretty Jenny, who won off by more than five lengths, and the colt race with High Expectations, a less obvious standout than Pretty Jenny, but one of the most impressive horses in Saturday's slew of Illinois-bred stakes. High Expectations had easily won two straight Illinois-bred races over nine furlongs on dirt coming into the Springfield Stakes, but this was a peak performance. High Expectations swooped to the lead coming into the stretch and drew off to win by six lengths, turning in a strong one-mile clocking of 1:36, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

"He's been running better every time out," Janks said. "The horse is just doing so well right now."

Both Pretty Jenny and High Expectations soon will face a jump into open company, but Janks hasn't decided when or where.

"Believe it or not, I haven't even thought about it yet," she said. "I'm a real believer in taking things one step at a time. I don't even want to think about it until I get them back to the racetrack."

Janks's other unbeaten horse is named Big Attlet, and to say he came out of nowhere would be fair. Big Attlet debuted in April in a $10,000 Illinois-bred maiden-claimer at Hawthorne, a race for the lowliest horses on the circuit, and won by almost 10 lengths. This was something of a miracle in itself. The 4-year-old Big Attlet had been so slow, and so chronically sore, at age 3, that Janks took him out of training, sent him to Florida, and along with her ownership partners twice tried to give Big Attlet away. No takers, and after several months of work, Big Attlet was at least ready to return to the racetrack. Nobody claimed Big Attlet out of his debut, and three weeks later, Janks ran him back in a $17,500 nonwinners-of-two claimer. This time, Big Attlet won by 25 1/2 lengths, earning a Beyer Figure of 102.

"I was actually praying he'd be claimed that day," Janks said.

But he wasn't, and at Arlington, Big Attlet has run through his first and second Illinois allowance conditions, most recently scoring a comfortable win here Thursday.

"He's been a pleasant surprise, but really, the whole meet has been that way," said Janks.

Fort Prado sticking around

Take Achance on Me, a sharp winner of Saturday's White Oak Handicap, already has returned home to Maryland, and there's little chance he will be back in Chicago before another set of Illinois-bred stakes this fall at Hawthorne. But Chicago racing fans should see more this summer of another open-stakes-class Illinois-bred, since Fort Prado, who enhanced his budding reputation with a smooth win in the Black Tie Affair Handicap, isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Trainer Chris Block said Monday that Fort Prado had come out of his victory Saturday in good physical condition, though he isn't likely to race again before the Sea o'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile here on Aug. 6.

"There's really not anything for him until then," Block said. The trainer mentioned the July 23 Arlington Handicap, "but that's a mile and a quarter, and I don't really want to test that. There may be some distance limitations, and I still think he's really still developing. Hopefully, there will still be a lot of time to go forward, since he's only 4."

Southern Africa headed for Arlington Classic

Southern Africa, the Lone Star Derby winner, worked a snappy half-mile in 47.60 seconds here Saturday. It was the sort of work trainer Mike Puhich wanted to see, and on Monday, Puhich said he planned to enter Southern Africa in Saturday's $150,000 Arlington Classic.

Southern Africa figures to be the second choice if the Arlington Classic field, projected to be eight or nine, remains about the same through Wednesday, when entries are taken. The likely favorite is Guillaume Tell, based in New York with trainer Todd Pletcher. In his last two starts, Guillaume Tell finished second in the Transylvania and third behind Rey de Cafe and Rush Bay in the American Turf on May 6 at Churchill. Others expected are Gold Minister, Hole in the Head, Javi Suervo, Major League, Ready Ruler, and United.

* The highest-class race on Wednesday's card is the eighth, an entry-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles that drew a field of six fillies. Ritzy and Unbridled Appeal might be the two favorites, but the pick is Two Hearts, who scored a blowout maiden win in her only start at this distance.