06/09/2004 11:00PM

Allspice taking it nice and slow

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The typical good horse climbs through her allowance conditions before breaking into the realm of stakes racing. Allspice is going the other direction.

The last time she raced, Allspice won the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap on April 24 at Hawthorne. But the Sixty Sails win was just the third victory of Allspice's career, making her eligible for a third-level allowance Saturday at Arlington.

"That's a beautiful thing, isn't it?" trainer Greg Geier said.

The tale has another twist: Allspice is the most accomplished horse in her stable, but it is Princess Pelona who runs Saturday in the $75,000 Estrapade Stakes. Allspice is a dirt horse, and the Estrapade is carded for turf, but rain could force the race onto the main track.

Allspice is 2 for 2 at Arlington, with a maiden win and a victory in the Eliza Stakes here at 2. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Allspice has had two significant layoffs, including a break from April 2003 through this past February, when she resumed racing at Fair Grounds. Her win in the Sixty Sails was a breakthrough, but it taxed her.

Geier conceded that Allspice was a tired horse after the Sixty Sails. Rather than toss her into another stakes, he says he hopes to use Saturday's allowance race as a stepping-stone, perhaps to the Iowa Distaff Breeders' Cup on July 3.

"She might not be 100 percent yet, but she's getting there," Geier said.

Besides typical concerns, Geier has an extra worry with Allspice. "When she comes into heat, she doesn't want to do anything," he said. "Some horses, it doesn't bother that much. Her, it does."

Allspice has six opponents Saturday. Quest for Truth, who loves Arlington, and Sunset Kisses, who was cross-entered in the Estrapade, have the best chance to upset her.

Catalano having slow start

When Wayne Catalano said this would be a transitional summer for his stable, he was not playing possum. Last season, Catalano won the Arlington training title - his third in four years - with 59 winners, 30 more than the next-highest total. Through Wednesday, 19 days into this Arlington season, Catalano had started seven horses, with a win, a second, and a third.

"It's slow, just like I said it would be," Catalano said.

The difference this year is well known. Catalano no longer serves as trainer for Frank Calabrese, Arlington's perennial leading owner. Calabrese's current trainer, Pat Cuccurullo, has gone 28-8-3-5 during Catalano's fallow early period and is close to the top of the trainer standings. Catalano is biding his time.

"It's relaxing," he said. "I spend a lot more time at home. I don't have to go through the rat race."

Catalano trains now for Turf Express Inc., but his operation has been much more active at Mountaineer Park than Arlington. Catalano has 25 stalls here, and he said his participation this summer will increase.

"But I'm not there yet," he said. "I've got to wait."

Cuccurullo and Calabrese claimed two of Catalano's horses in one day, but it did not trigger a claiming war. Catalano was upset with Cuccurullo over one of the claims. "That one incident, I was disappointed with what he did," he said. "Otherwise,

I wish him and Mr. Calabrese all the luck. Frank's good for the game. He was good to me, good to my family."

Summer Mis to pass Chicago BC

Summer Mis, Illinois horse of the year in 2003, was one of 22 nominees to the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup, to be run here June 19, but trainer Tony Mitchell said Summer Mis will pass that spot in favor of a statebred stakes race the next weekend.

Summer Mis's last start, an overnight handicap here May 15, produced one of the worst finishes of her career, an 11-length defeat in a race she appeared to fit. Mitchell gave Summer Mis a break following the defeat, trying to sort out what might be troubling her, and he says he believes Summer Mis is set for a return to form, but not in time for the Chicago BC.

* Arlington stewards suspended leading jockey Cruz Contreras three days, June 16-18, for a riding infraction committed Wednesday. Contreras's mount, Perspicacious, was disqualified from second to fourth for stretch interference in the eighth race. Contreras's agent, Tom Morgan, said Contreras would appeal the suspension.