08/31/2006 11:00PM

Along with rest, 'Lydonia' unproven at 12 furlongs


CHICAGO - Shockingly, the Rossi Gold Stakes, which was to be contested Saturday at Arlington Park, lacked a starter from the barn of Christine Janks, the Chicago-based trainer who has been nearly ubiquitous in overnight stakes during this meet.

"I've been scratching my head trying to figure out what happened," said Janks, half-joking of her absence from the Rossi Gold.

Things, however, are quickly back in order. Janks has the horse to beat, Ms. Lydonia, in Sunday's overnight stakes feature, the $40,000 Claire Marine at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Not one of the seven entered in the Claire Marine has won over 1 1/2 miles, and only three have tried the distance. Among the untested is Ms. Lydonia, who has not raced beyond 1 1/16 miles in her last 12 outs. But Ms. Lydonia is a grass horse of stakes class in Illinois-bred competition at least, and she won the Lincoln Heritage on the Arlington course earlier in the meet. She was third last out in a fourth-level turf allowance, beaten as much as anything by racing well behind a slow early pace, and Janks has reason to believe that Ms. Lydonia will stretch her talents to a new distance.

"Well, the jockey, [Larry] Sterling, thinks she can do it, and they have a better feel for it than anybody else," said Janks. "He gets her to relax really well, and she just lays back wherever he wants. If I have any horse that can go a mile and a half, she can."

Samantha B. may not be far behind Ms. Lydonia in terms of turf class, but she seems more suspect at the longer trip. Grand Illusion finished sixth in the 2004 Claire Marine, her lone try at 1 1/2 miles, but she might be capable of a stronger effort this season. Moon Dolly just finished seventh in the Waya Handicap at Saratoga, a 1 1/2-mile grass race for New York-breds. Moon Berry won over 1 1/4 miles on grass in her native Brazil, but has been less effective since being imported to the U.S. And Casuarina, who might actually stay the trip, has raced on turf only three times in her career, winning once.

Catalano-Douglas duo strikes again

Wayne Catalano and Rene Douglas teamed to win a pair of races Thursday at Arlington. And that surprised whom?

Over the course of several years of occasional partnering, Douglas and Catalano have gone 77 for 189 as a team, a 41-percent strike rate. At this meet, the win percentage stands at 50 (14 for 28), and during August, the 16 horses Douglas rode for Catalano won nine races and finished second in five others.

"With Catalano, I mean, the combination has always been strong," Douglas said Friday morning. "Catalano to me is amazing. It's hard to describe. I've never seen somebody like him. This guy should be more recognized around the United States. His numbers speak for themself. When I ride horses for him, I'll go to the paddock and be like, 'Why did you claim this horse?' He just says, ride, and you'll win easy - and he does it."

Catalano is running away with the Arlington training title, but Douglas only came here after Churchill's season concluded, far too late to contend for the jockey title, which he won every year from 2001 through 2004. Douglas's 23 wins during August, however, were best among local jockeys, a number fueled in great part by Catalano's run.

But what will Douglas do next? He was riding first call for Dale Romans much of the Churchill meet, but split with Romans in early July, and his current agent, Jay Fedor, is totally Chicago-based and books mounts for leading rider Chris Emigh.

"Good question, and I have no idea," Douglas said of his plans for the near future. "I'm not in any rush, you know. Family comes first. I want to spend some time with my family. I got some options, nothing definitely yet. I don't want to commit myself."

Douglas said he was unlikely to ride regularly at the Keeneland meet. But that is where two other significant late arrivals to the Arlington season, Mark Guidry and Robby Albarado, will hang their tack in October. Fred Aimee, Guidry's agent, said Guidry had mounts in major races at Woodbine and Louisiana Downs lined up to fill in the gap between the end of Arlington next week and the start of Keeneland the first week of October.

Therecomesatiger to Woodbine Mile

Therecomesatiger, who won the Sea O'Erin Stakes at Arlington in his most recent race, will make his next start in the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 17, trainer Tom Proctor said. Proctor said he planned to ship Therecomesatiger from Arlington to Canada the Tuesday before the race.

Proctor said he's still on the fence with the 3-year-old filly Walklikeanegyptian, a possible starter in Saturday's Pucker Up Stakes here.