06/05/2003 12:00AM

Apt to Be is apt to win Dr. Fager

Email

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A jockey could be pretty happy winning 21 races and over $500,000 during the first month of a race meet, but seen in context, Rene Douglas is off to a ho-hum start at Arlington. So thoroughly did Douglas dominate the riding colony here last summer that his solid beginning this season pales in comparison.

In fact, through Wednesday's races Douglas wasn't even Arlington's leading rider. Curt Bourque, who rode three winners Sunday, held that position, with 24 winners to Douglas's 21. Each won once Wednesday.

But panicking, Douglas is not. "It will come," Douglas said. "I'm not worried about it. Things are a little slow, but a lot of horses from Kentucky aren't here, and they're not using the grass course much right now."

In the last two years, Douglas has regularly ridden many of the best horses invading Arlington from Kentucky, but right now, with the Churchill meet in full swing, few of those horses are shipping in. That leaves Douglas competing for Chicago-based horses with riders who have been here since the Hawthorne meet - like Bourque - while Douglas just arrived a few days before Arlington's May 8 opening.

But the Kentucky factor is heating up. Friday, Douglas was to have ridden the Grade 1 winner Awesome Humor in an allowance race for trainer Elliott Walden, and Walden has given him the mount on Ole Faunty in Saturday's $45,000 Dr. Fager Handicap.

But Douglas can't make a horse any faster. At first glance, Ole Faunty looks fairly tough in the six-horse Dr. Fager, a seven-furlong dirt race, but first glances aren't always penetrating. Yes, Ole Faunty won his most recent race by 1 1/2 lengths, overcoming a speed duel and earning an imposing Beyer Speed Figure of 102 on May 18 at Churchill. But betting off that race alone could prove rash. Ole Faunty beat only six horses in a mediocre second-level allowance, and while that race was around two turns, Saturday's is a one-turn mile, where Ole Faunty's speed may not be quite as effective.

The pick is Apt to Be, who faded to sixth here May 17 after chasing the stakes horse There's Zealous through fast early fractions. That high-end optional claimer featured a stronger field than this overnight handicap, and Apt to Be has won four times in six one-turn mile starts. He makes his second start after a layoff for trainer Chris Block, the same sort of timing that nearly netted Apt to Be a win in the Grade 3 Hanshin here two summers ago.