11/16/2004 12:00AM

Afternoon Dreams reawakens

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CHICAGO - In the spring of 2003 at Fair Grounds, there were a couple promising 3-year-old fillies residing in the barn of trainer Bret Calhoun. They were linked by name, Afternoon Dreams and Rebridled Dreams, and in the Grade 2 Silverbulletday Stakes that year the two finished second and third.

As it turned out, they stood not on the threshold of stardom, but obscurity. By 2004, both had left Calhoun's barn and were racing on other circuits, and they have combined this year to produce a record of 13-0-0-1. But Afternoon Dreams, now owned by Bonnie Baskin and trained by Richie Scherer, emerged from a long slumber three weeks ago at Hawthorne. On Oct. 28, she made her first start in seven months, and Afternoon Dreams ran promisingly, closing from a different zip code to finish third, beaten only a couple lengths in an entry-level turf allowance.

goes right back into the same kind of race in Thursday's sixth at Hawthorne, a 1 1/16-mile grass race.

To be sure, Afternoon Dreams is a come-from-behind kind of horse, but she need not drop as far behind Thursday as she did in her comeback race. On that day, jockey Greta Kuntzweiler was forced to take up at the start, costing Afternoon Dreams any kind of early position. While the filly might be most comfortable settling into her own pace, she can still race within 10 lengths of the leaders, giving her a much better shot to mow them down.

The main competition will be trying to do the same thing. That is a filly named Grand Illusion, who won her maiden last time out in her ninth try, but did so with a powerful, definitive move.

Trained by Tony Mitchell for owner Keith Myers, Grand Illusion made two starts at 2 before coming to Mitchell earlier this year at Arlington, and race by race she has improved. In July, she ran second by a nose to Anegada, who won a Churchill Downs allowance race last weekend. In August, she ran second by a neck to Cape Town Lass, who just missed pulling a major upset Saturday in the

Grade 3 Mrs. Revere at Churchill. And in September, Grand Illusion was second to Atlantic Frost, who came right back to whip entry-level allowance foes.

No question, Grand Illusion kept good company earlier in the year. The only horse that might be keeping her company at the end of Thursday's race is Afternoon Dreams, finally competitive again.