09/17/2002 12:00AM

Aesthete Approval tepid pick

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CHICAGO - Arlington's third-level turf allowance division for females is starting to look like a social club. Every couple weeks the same gaggle of fillies gets together for a half-hour or so, moseying around the paddock, walking out to the track together and taking turns beating one another in a grass race.

Six of the eight horses entered in Arlington's featured eighth race Thursday have faced each other at least once, and in most cases several times. Confusion reigns as to who is best, which would have made new face Five Fishes an especially attractive possibility. The problem is, trainer Niall O'Callaghan said Tuesday that Five Fishes would not ship to Arlington from his Churchill base as planned on Wednesday, and instead would be scratched from the race.

So it's right back to the old familiars. The pick here is Aesthete Approval, though her 3-for-19 win record does not inspire confidence as a top selection. After a disappointing performance here June 30, Aesthete Approval has missed the last couple third-level turf gatherings, but in the final reckoning the 10-week freshening may be to her advantage.

Owned by Connie Philips and trained by Moises Yanez, the 4-year-old Aesthete Approval has mixed strong races with surprisingly weak ones. When it seemed she was ready to ascend to the listed stakes level at various points in her career, Aesthete Approval would take a step back. This spring she traveled to Churchill and missed winning by a neck in a highly rated allowance, but followed that with an even fourth when she was the favorite at Hawthorne, a course on which she had won an overnight stakes race the year before.

Even this summer, Aesthete Approval was poised to clear this allowance condition after she finished well while rallying into a slow pace and was third here June 12, but then came the June 30 debacle. Aesthete Approval races best as a stalker, and with Cozy, the stretchout sprinter Lemon Haze, and Red Mimi in this lineup, she should have pace to stalk.

Tay Laur, a high-level claimer much of this year, is a relative newcomer to the group and enters Thursday's race in top form. She was fourth Aug. 30 in the last third-level filly allowance, but missed by only a half-length without the benefit of a great trip. At age 4 and with only four grass starts behind her, Tay Laur has the potential to make a hit when the circle of fillies convenes this time.

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