07/19/2007 11:00PM

Washington Park takes shape

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - At the beginning of the Arlington season, trainer Todd Pletcher, speaking about running a string in Chicago for the first time, said his stabling at Arlington meant he'd be a regular participant in stakes races here

this summer. And Pletcher was not merely blowing smoke.

By the time this weekend ends, there will have been eight open stakes races so far this Arlington season, and barring scratches on Saturday's Million Preview Day, Pletcher will have participated in seven of them, lacking an entrant only in Saturday's Arlington Handicap. So far, his horses have captured two of the stakes: Pleasant Strike took the Arlington Classic and Pavarotti won the Round Table last weekend.

So, it should come as no surprise that Pletcher is expected to play a major role next weekend in Arlington's most important race for older horses on the main track, the $300,000 Washington Park Handicap. Friday, Pletcher confirmed that he planned to start two in the July 28 race: Throng, who barely won an overnight stakes race here in his last start, and the more accomplished A.P. Arrow, who was sixth last out in the Hollywood Gold Cup and is scheduled to ship from New York for the Washington Park.

Still, the Washington Park will be lacking in star power. As of Friday, racing officials here had nine or 10 horses listed as probable starters, including the Pletcher pair. Others expected to be entered on Wednesday are High Blues, Minister's Joy, Mustanfar, Real Dandy, Save Big Money, Sidcup, and Stream Cat. Owner Gary Tanaka is expected to be represented by one horse, but whether that's Kentucky-based Embossed or Woodbine-based Eccentric remains to be seen. If Embossed gets the call, Roger Attfield, who trains Eccentric, could send Palladio.

Yanez off to strong start

It seems like every time you look up this meet, trainer Moises Yanez is winning a race. Yanez, a 56-year-old native of Chihuahua, Mexico, never lacks for starters at Arlington, but his win percentage typically hovers in the 10 percent range. In 1993 and 1994, he had a couple solid seasons here, winning 23 and 24 races, but Yanez, with two wins Wednesday and another Thursday, is on pace to easily eclipse those totals. Through Thursday's races, he had won with 19 of 122 starters, placing him third in the trainer standings and only three wins behind Todd Pletcher for second. Wayne Catalano's stable led the pack with 37 wins.

Yanez typically gets off to a slow start in the early spring, as his horses filter into Chicago from Florida and race themselves into shape.

"When we came to Hawthorne, my horses weren't ready yet," Yanez said. "They needed some seasoning. Now, they're doing pretty good."

Yanez has no stars, but sends out a steady stream of young Illinois-breds and conditioned claiming horses. He has been fortunate to find good spots for horses that are in sharp form, such as Tour d'Aura, who won her second straight start in Thursday's first race, and Voy Por Uno Mas, who was given a class hike from a $40,000 maiden-claiming win on turf into an open entry-level allowance in Wednesday's eighth race and scored a front-running victory.

"We've been very lucky," Yanez said. "But you need luck in this business."

Caruso targets Fairmount start

Caruso, the talented Illinois-bred 3-year-old sprinter, is headed to Fairmount Park for his next start - provided the Illinois-bred stakes race there attracts enough entries to fill.

"I'm afraid the race won't go," trainer Richard Hazelton said. "I only know of one other horse going from [Chicago], and who are they going to get to run down there?"

Caruso, who was second to 5-year-old High Expectations in the White Oak Handicap earlier this month, has been penciled in to the six-furlong Pete Condelone, one of six Illinois-bred stakes scheduled for July 31 at Fairmount.