08/06/2001 11:00PM

'B' team is backward

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CHICAGO - Almost two months into the Arlington meet, the much-ballyhooed arrival of Godolphin's contingent of 2-year-olds barely has raised a ripple. Godolphin, which has about 20 horses in training here, has started seven horses at the meet, with no wins and two seconds through Wednesday.

Disappointing, perhaps, but not completely surprising to trainer Eoin Harty, who has bounced back and forth this summer between Chicago and Southern California, where Godolphin's "A" team of American 2-year-olds is based. "Considering the stock I sent out there, it's been about as I expected," Harty said.

Last year, Godolphin launched its U.S. juvenile operation, with Harty at the helm, and this year the powerful international stable expanded with a Midwest division. From the beginning, Harty and his Arlington assistant, Davey Duggan, described the horses here as backward. They lacked the speed to keep up in the brilliantly fast 2-year-old sprint races held at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, and many were far behind in terms of overall development.

"You've got to wonder how much talent they naturally have," Harty said. "They didn't show much earlier in the year. They're backward horses, but hopefully that will get better later in the year."

It's not getting better yet. Last week, Dubai Squire stretched out to a mile and finished a badly beaten third as the favorite, while Maritime Mission finished eighth, beaten 20 lengths, in his race.

"There's only so much you can do with the stock you're given," Harty said. "I'm sure he's feeling the pressure, but it's nothing Davey Duggan has done wrong. He's a top-class man, and that's why he's gotten where he is."

One of the bright spots here has been Jilbab, an A.P. Indy filly who closed with a huge stretch rush to finish second in her July 14 debut. Jilbab is close to making her next start and tentatively is being pointed to the Arlington-Washington Lassie here.

Caressing goes next in Singapore

Two-year-old filly champion Caressing's next attempt to restore her career's luster will come Saturday at Arlington. Caressing will ship here from trainer Dave Vance's Kentucky base to start in the Grade 3 Singapore Plate, a $125,000, nine-furlong dirt race for 3-year-old fillies.

Caressing, whose upset win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall brought her championship honors, has won one of three starts this season, taking the La Troienne Stakes in her 2001 debut but finishing unplaced in the Grade 1 Acorn and, most recently, in the July 21 Delaware Oaks. Caressing was beaten a combined 24 lengths in those two races.

"We have been disappointed in the year she's had," Vance said of himself and owner Carl Pollard. "First she got sick and didn't make the race we wanted to make," the Kentucky Oaks. "In New York she didn't finish, and last time she never really picked up the bit."

Vance thinks Caressing became intimidated in her last start when she was trapped along the rail. "She doesn't like that at all," he said.

"It's not anything physical that's keeping her from what she wants to do. We're looking for a spot now where she can go to better things this fall."

Despite her losses, Caressing, who finished second in the Arlington-Washington Lassie here last summer, might be favored in the Singapore Plate, which formerly was known as the Arlington Oaks. She's likely to face between four and six rivals.

Meanwhile, Vance said the next start for his other top 3-year-old filly, Unbridled Elaine, remained uncertain. Unbridled Elaine has won both of her starts since Vance took over her training this summer, most recently taking the Grade 2 Monmouth Oaks. Vance said he did not nominate Unbridled Elaine to the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.

"I was afraid I'd be tempted to run," he said.