08/26/2004 11:00PM

Von Hemel makes plans for top pair

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Benoit & Associates
Herculated wins the Sea o'Erin on Aug. 7. He might be headed to the Belmont Breeders' Cup next, but trainer Mike Stidham is not certain.

CHICAGO - Trainer Donnie Von Hemel has his late-summer stable split between Oklahoma and Louisiana, but the stakes horses Bedanken and Cryptograph remain in training at Arlington, awaiting their marching orders.

Von Hemel has drawn up the plans. Crytograph is headed for the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs; Bedanken is probably going to Keeneland for the WinStar Galaxy Stakes in October.

Von Hemel won the WinStar last year with Bien Nicole, and he could win it again with Bedanken. She finished fifth here Aug. 14 in the Grade 1 Beverly D., but was beaten only two lengths, and had virtually no chance to win considering the shape of the race. The Beverly D. pace was abysmally slow from the start, and Bedanken wound up far behind it. She made a strong wide run on the final turn, but could not match the acceleration of the top finishers in deep stretch.

"There were five or six in there, and if you switched a couple things around, any of them could've won it," Von Hemel said. "She showed she can run with that kind of horses."

Cryptograph hasn't started since he won the $100,000 Round Table here July 17, overcoming a tough trip. The Round Table marked Cryptograph's second start in 13 days, and Von Hemel took the chance to give the colt a midsummer break.

Von Hemel's father, Don, has overseen the two horses at Arlington. Cryptograph could leave to finish his preparations for the Super Derby in advance of the race, Donnie Von Hemel said. "We'll see if the weather breaks down there," he said.

Stidham in no hurry with Herculated

Herculated, a rising star in the turf division, continues to train well at Arlington, and the hoof soreness that plagued him early this summer has not cropped up since his impressive comeback win in the Aug. 7 Sea o'Erin Handicap. Still, trainer Mike Stidham is in no hurry to commit Herculated to a race, though the Belmont Breeders' Cup next month in New York is the leading candidate for Herculated's next stop.

"We're just kind of taking our time with him," Stidham said. "The Belmont race is one possibility, but even that's not a definite. I don't see any reason to get in a rush with him right now."

Herculated's Arlington win came at one mile, but he was second this spring in the 1 1/8-mile Mervin Muniz, and Stidham has not yet seen any distance limitations. More important is the sort of course on which Herculated runs, since hard turf at Pimlico contributed to his foot problems earlier this year.

On the Course, another stakes-level turf horse in Stidham's barn, is being pointed to an overnight race at Arlington.

To get to Lassie, Mary Alex will face lads

Stidham also has a 2-year-old filly named Culinary, who earlier this month won her maiden by 11 lengths at first asking. Culinary was entered in the Top Flight Stakes this week, but she was one of the few. Only four went into the Top Flight, and only two came back in an entry-level allowance race that might have provided a suitable alternative. Both races were scrapped, leaving local fillies without a logical prep for the Sept. 19 Arlington-Washington Lassie.

"I don't know how you're supposed to get to the Lassie," said Stidham, who worked Culinary a half-mile in 49 seconds Friday.

Steve Hobby, who entered the promising filly Mary Alex in the Top Flight and the allowance race, hatched an unorthodox scheme: He is running his filly against colts in a one-mile allowance race Sunday. The allowance, race 5, has two potentially nice horses in Three Hour Nap and Streak of Light, another Stidham-trained 2-year-old.

Mary Alex easily won her career debut here July 7, and was a tough-trip third in the July 31 Silver Maiden Stakes.

"I just never dreamed the [Top Flight] wouldn't go," Hobby said. "I have to do something with her if I want to get in the Lassie, and it needs to be this weekend."