09/27/2001 11:00PM

White Heart looks upwardly mobile again


PHOENIX - Winner Silvano and runner-up Hap certainly enjoyed the soft footing in the Arlington Million. White Heart and Bienamado did not.

White Heart struggled home fifth, beaten about 16 lengths. He finished nearly five in front of Bienamado, who not only hated the ground but came out of the race with an injury that will prevent him from making the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Trainer Neil Drysdale has to be happy White Heart came out of the race in good shape, and now the underrated White Heart attempts to get back in the limelight in Sunday's Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship, a Grade 1 race at 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Santa Anita.

White Heart took a spot at the top of the turf division on Derby Day when he beat King Cugat, Brahms, and a host of other good turf horses in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve at 1 1/8 miles. Coming off a long layoff, White Heart sat midpack and blasted home, getting first run on King Cugat and making it pay.

He didn't race again until the summer, but that wasn't terribly alarming, because it's not unusual for Drysdale to space out his horses' races. White Heart resurfaced in the Whittingham at Hollywood at 1 1/4 miles. He couldn't quite go with Bienamado in the stretch and ended up a close fourth.

That set him up for a run at the Million. But he had lost some luster earned in the Woodford Reserve, and was sent off at nearly 9-1. White Heart's fifth-place Million finish didn't regain him any backers.

But you can't ignore the power he showed last year, when he was a Grade 1 winner in Southern California, or his race in the Woodford Reserve, when he beat one of the best turf fields assembled all year.

On Sunday, he's back home, on the firm footing he likes, and Bienamado is not in the race. The Hirsch will be a worthy test. Bobby Frankel has had an unbelievable run in graded stakes, and shows up here with Senure, another victim of the soft turf in the Million.

Senure beat White Heart while finishing behind Bienamado in the Whittingham Handicap. Between that race and the Million, Senure won the Grade 2 United Nations via the disqualification of With Anticipation. It was the right call, and With Anticipation has since wired fields in the Sword Dancer and Man o' War, both Grade 1's.

Toss in Dick Mandella's pair of Cagney and Kudos, who will attack this race from behind and in front, respectively, and you have a legitimate test. But the feeling here is White Heart can separate himself from the crowd, and move his way back up to where he was in May - among the game's turf elite.

Big Jag, big heart

As a young horse, Big Jag was like an overgrown, clumsy kid in junior high, falling all over himself. Still, Big Jag was on his way to a decent career until he injured a knee.

After he returned from that injury, Big Jag, under the guidance of Tim Pinfield, emerged a man among boys. He even beat Kona Gold. Even when Kona Gold beat Big Jag, Kona Gold knew he'd been in a scrap.

Big Jag lost his biggest battle last week, having to be put down almost seven months after sustaining a major injury.

His success didn't come in just a run of a couple races, or a couple months. Big Jag wasn't a flash in the pan. He turned into a major horse.

He went to Dubai last year and showed the world that some Cal-bred by Kleven could run with the best, romping in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. He ran well twice in Hong Kong, and also finished third to Artax and Kona Gold in the 1999 BC Sprint.

Big Jag went back to Dubai to defend his title this past March, but never got the chance. He suffered a major injury, and while there was fear for his life, he was doing well after a couple months.

But after months of struggle, Big Jag had to be put down this past week in Dubai.

While Big Jag was recovering, Tim Pinfield and his wife, Debbie, went over to visit him, hoping to bring him back to California for a well-deserved life of luxury. "He was our window to the world," said Tim Pinfield.

It was a great view while it lasted.