08/14/2002 11:00PM

Weight only worry for Orchard Park

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - And then there was one. Several weeks ago, trainer Bill Mott had an impressive array of options for the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes. Orchard Park, Miesque's Approval, and Patrol all had shown themselves worthy of shipping to Chicago, but Mott finally settled on Orchard Park.

Mott's pick will be the one of many horseplayers, too, since Orchard Park figures to close to even-money in the Grade 1 Secretariat. With Jerry Bailey to ride for Mott, Orchard Park will be going for his seventh victory in his last eight starts, a terrific record that has the colt poised to move into the upper echelon of North America's overall turf division.

Orchard Park most recently captured the $500,000 Virginia Derby, heightening his reputation as a gamer with a relentless stretch run. With the Crown Royal American Turf in May being the lone blemish on his record since last fall, Orchard Park should be well served by the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Secretariat.

"Billy Mott's definitely got the horse to beat," said Bobby Frankel, who will saddle the likely second choice, Chiselling. "The problem for him, though, is he's going to have to be much the best, considering how he has to spot everybody weight. I don't know if that's fair, but it gives some of the other horses a better chance."

Indeed, Orchard Park will tote 126 pounds in the Secretariat, while Mananan McLir and Chiselling will carry 121. The other four starters, including Love Regardless, a recent Group 3 winner in Germany, have been assigned 116.

Frankel said that Chiselling, a half-brother to previous Juddmonte Farms stars Chester House and Honest Lady, merits the role of second choice behind Orchard Park. In his last start, Chiselling captured the Grade 3 Lexington at Belmont, getting up in the final strides to post his first stakes victory.

"He's gotten better since we put blinkers on him a few races back, and his [speed figures] are good," he said. "I thought that last race was even better than it looked."

Frankel said in his previous race, a narrow allowance defeat at Hollywood, Chiselling was pinned along the rail and the winner, Rock Opera, came back to win a stakes.

Besides the top two, Mananan McLir and Jazz Beat appear capable. They were the respective one-two finishers over the Arlington turf course in the American Derby, the local prep for the Secretariat.

The Secretariat was inaugurated in 1974, the year after "Big Red" retired. It has long been a terrific gauge for 3-year-old turf horses, with budding grass stars such as Mac Diarmida (1978), Hawkster (1989), Awad (1993), and Marlin (1996) having won it.

The Secretariat is the last of the Festival races and the 11th of 12 overall. Post time is 5:48 p.m. Central.

Slider top threat in Cigar

True to the mega-event status that Million Day long ago attained, three $60,000 stakes also are part of the 12-race Saturday card.

Foremost among those supporting stakes is the Cigar Stakes, a one-mile dirt race for older horses. Slider, who posted a massive 120 Beyer Speed Figure at Keeneland, is the probable favorite in a field that also includes Talknow, Fajardo, and There's Zealous.

The other races are the Meafara Stakes for filly-mare sprinters and the Forward Pass for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.