09/30/2009 12:00AM

Big Rushlet back on dirt for Brueggemann

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Even before Arlington Park switched to Polytrack, the Roger Brueggemann stable operated under a slow-summer schedule. Hawthorne in the spring, Brueggemann would win. Hawthorne in the fall, Brueggemann would win. At Arlington, the winning slowed to a trickle. From 2004 through 2008 at Arlington, Brueggemann won 40 races from 443 starts, a 9 percent clip. During the same period at Hawthorne fall meets, he went 121 for 627, a 19 percent win rate.

But, contrary to local legend, the Brueggemann outfit does not come out of the gate blazing fire in the fall. At the spring meet here, Brueggemann has racked up big win totals during the opening weeks of recent seasons. In the autumn, though, his win pace is slower and steadier, befitting a longer meet that runs through January.

The Brueggemann profile applies to featured race 7 on Friday. Day 2 of the Hawthorne 2009 fall meet drew a robust number of entries on a nine-race card. There are eight in the feature, a third-level, six-furlong allowance race also open to $50,000 claimers. Five of the eight are in for the claiming price, but not the Brueggemann-trained Big Rushlet, though the 7-year-old gelding was offered up for a $50,000 price when he won July 11 at Arlington.

Big Rushlet exits his worst start among six since Brueggemann and the Scarlet Stable claimed him for $25,000 back in April, but his fifth-place finish Sept. 4 came in a turf race, and a turf horse Big Rushlet is not. On dirt, he is a five-time winner, and a half-mile breeze Saturday at Hawthorne was recorded in a snappy 48.80 seconds, a strong sign that Big Rushlet is ready to run big.

There's at least one potentially significant issue for Big Rushlet: the possibility that classy veteran Orphan Brigade may wind up controlling the pace Friday. Orphan Brigade exits two decidedly subpar performances, but has potential excuses for both, and his longtime connections, trainer Bret Calhoun and owner Carl Moore Management LLC, hold the 8-year-old firm at the $50,000 claiming class. Orphan Brigade is 1 for 1 on Hawthorne dirt, and is a tough horse to pass when allowed a clear lead.

A return to Hawthorne could help Caruso, who always has struggled over Arlington's Polytrack. And even though Sub Futz Jr won on synthetic this summer, he, too, should appreciate the switch in Chicago venues.

"I think he's better on dirt," said trainer Hugh Robertson.

And better may be good enough, since Sub Futz won easily at this same class level and distance here in April.