05/26/2001 12:00AM

Anything Catalano runs is dangerous


STICKNEY, Ill. - Trainer Wayne Catalano has started only 13 horses at this brief Hawthorne meet, roughly a fifth as many as the most active stables here. But a lack of starters hasn't kept Catalano from assuming a position atop the trainer standings. Through Friday, Catalano had six wins and was tied with J.R. Smith Sr.

"It makes it tough when you only run 13 horses," Catalano said Saturday. But in recent years, Catalano's typical win percentage has soared. He often can make do with running fewer horses than most trainers, because they are invariably well spotted and well prepared. Of the 13 that have run here, not only have almost half won, but 10 have finished first or second and 11 in the money.

So when Catalano says that Power and Panache is ready to run a big race in Tuesday's featured fourth, handicappers would do well to pay attention.

Power and Panache faces seven other horses in the fourth race, an optional claiming race scheduled for one mile on the turf. There has been rain in the area for five days now, and turf races were canceled Friday and Saturday. More rain is forecast through Monday, leading to the possibility that Tuesday's feature could end up on the main track.

That would be another stroke of bad luck for Power and Panache. A private purchase last spring, Power and Panache has started nine times for Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese, and despite running well several times, he hasn't yet won.

Power and Panache's last was a downer, an eighth-place finish at the Gulfstream Park meet last winter. But Catalano said the horse has recently trained well, and he fully expects a rebound Tuesday.

Power and Panache's stiffest opposition could come from Flowing Sands. Trainer Tom Amoss's luck this spring at Hawthorne has been on a par with Power and Panache's. Amoss has sent three horses here from Churchill to run, and two, including American Spirit on Friday, have been rained off the turf. Flowing Sands is Amoss's latest attempt to invade and win, and the horse is taking a class drop after facing stakes quality turf horses in a recent Churchill allowance race.