09/04/2007 11:00PM

Asi Siempre kept out of Matron


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Six horses were entered Wednesday in Saturday's Grade 3 Arlington Matron, but there's a hole in the field about the size of Texas.

Asi Siempre, who would have been a prohibitive favorite to win the Matron, will instead spend Saturday afternoon at home in her stall at Keeneland. Asi Siempre turned in a fast five-furlong workout on Tuesday over Keeneland's Polytrack, but that afternoon she was found to have a bruised foot. The injury isn't serious, but will cost her several days of training - if not a week - and a start in the $150,000 Matron.

"She worked well the other morning," said trainer Patrick Biancone, "but we walk them in the afternoon, and when she came out, she was a bit sore, not really lame. It's not a big deal, but it's her right front heel, you know. We'll wait, soak her foot, the usual thing."

Asi Siempre, who is approaching $1 million in career earnings, still is on target to try and win the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland for the second straight year. Last season, she prepped for the Spinster in the Ballston Spa Handicap, a Saratoga grass stakes. This time, she will be racing after a layoff of some three months, her most recent start having come on July 15 in the Delaware Handicap. Asi Siempre finished a distant sixth there - her first poor race since April 2005 in France - but Biancone, who began serving a 15-day suspension Wednesday, said she disliked Delaware's dirt surface and had been training very well for the Matron.

"It's a shame, because she was really in good form," Biancone said.

Asi Siempre's absence means six other horses who probably were running for second have a chance to pick up a Grade 3 victory. Scheduled to start in the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race are Coolwind, Ms. Lydonia, Eyes on Eddy, Round Heels, Solo Survivor, and On Safari.

Breeders' Cup bid beckons

Flash back to November 2000 at Churchill Downs, and you may recall Caressing, the $47 winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies that owner Carl Pollard and trainer Dave Vance sent out to victory. Vance, who is approaching 3,000 career wins, definitely remembers, and would not at all mind getting back into a similar spot.

"Sure, I'd love to, but you've got to get pretty lucky for that," he said.

Who knows - by Saturday night, Vance and Pollard could be one step closer to a Breeders' Cup return trip. Minewander, a Pollard-owned, Vance-trained 2-year-old filly from the first crop of champion Mineshfaft, was one of 11 horses entered in the Arlington-Washington Lassie. The Lassie shares top billing with the Matron and the Grade 3 Pucker Up on what should be an excellent day of racing.

Vance quickly concedes that Minewander, who appears to have some talent, has much left to prove. Minewander was third and fourth in a pair of Churchill maiden special weight sprints before winning her maiden by 3 1/4 lengths last out at Ellis Park.

"She had a couple little issues the first two times she ran," said Vance. "She beat nothing at Ellis - anyone could break their maiden down there - but she worked good since she won. The big concern I have is racing over the Polytrack. She'll ship up Friday, and I may jog her over it a little on Saturday morning."

Vance spoke glowingly about another horse in the Lassie, Dreaming of Liz, who could be favored for owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Wayne Catalano. Also entered were Eat Pie, an English filly who has been training recently at Turfway Park, La Wildcat, Honest to Betsy, Love Buzz, Pegasus Prospect, Pretty Persuasion, Rasierra, and two horses from trainer Steve Asmussen, Startswampindowski and Wonderful Luck.

The Lassie, a Grade 3, will be contested over one mile on Polytrack.

No shortage of challengers

Who wants to face 2-year-old filly champ Dreaming of Anna in the Pucker Up Stakes on Saturday? A more pertinent question: Who doesn't?

Thirteen horses were entered on Wednesday in the Pucker Up, a 1 1/8-mile grass race, and Dreaming of Anna may have to work to win her third straight start after losing three times to begin this season.

Among Dreaming of Anna's foes are the one-two finishers in the off-the-turf Hatoof Stakes - Arlington's Pucker Up prep - Pitamakan and You Go West Girl. Pitamakan deserves special attention vis a vis Dreaming of Anna, since both horses appear to have exactly the same front-running style. You Go West Girl finished strongly behind loose-on-the-lead Pitamakan in the Hatoof.

The Pucker Up field also includes two overseas horses, Testama and Touch My Soul, who will make their North American debuts.

Shesa Little Flirt looking solid

Ronny Werner's Saratoga venture was at least a mild success. He won a couple of races, and the 2-year-old filly Secret Gypsy set a 5 1/2-furlong track record winning a maiden race. Shesa Little Flirt was one of the horses Werner took to the Spa, and her lone race there went about like Werner's meet - not bad, not brilliant.

Racing in the $87,000 Heed Stakes, which was rained off turf and contested at seven furlongs on dirt, Shesa Little Flirt dueled for the lead over what might have been a taxing racing surface, and then faded to fourth of eight, beaten five lengths. But Shesa Little Flirt looks very much like the horse to beat in the co-featured eighth race on Friday at Arlington, a second-level allowance.

Shesa Little Flirt is proven twice on Arlington Polytrack. She won her career debut here by four lengths in June and captured an entry-level allowance race in July by more than five lengths. Werner got a final work into Shesa Little Flirt before she left Saratoga, and she should be set for another solid performance Friday.

Competition could come from Triple It, who hasn't raced since she was claimed for $50,000 last October at Keeneland. Triple It, a three-time winner, has worked steadily and quickly in recent weeks for trainer Terry Gestes.

Race 9 also is a second-level allowance, at about 1 1/16 miles on turf, and while a race of the wide-open variety, this one could come down to Y Seven and Now.