12/14/2006 1:00AM

Caruso has the ability his Edgar rivals lack


STICKNEY, Ill. - To win last Saturday's Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante - and win it they did - trainer Richard Hazelton and owner Richard Radke needed their 2-year-old filly Copper State to improve in her first two-turn try. In this Saturday's Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity, they only need Caruso to hold serve.

Caruso has been untouchable in sprints, including an excellent last-start victory in the $92,000 Sun Power Stakes, and being closely related to Copper State, who had improved at two turns, Caruso stands a great chance to run his 2-year-old record to four wins without a loss.

His task has been made easier by outside circumstances. Chillin Villain, who actually was favored to beat Caruso in the Sun Power, has been taken out of training until next year. And Mare's Ex, who won a two-turn Illinois-bred allowance prep for the Edgar, caught a cold this week and was forced from the race. That leaves a field of eight in the 1 1/16-mile Edgar, which will have a purse of about $100,000, depending upon who starts. Caruso has never been the favorite in a race, but this time he looks odds-on.

Cape Canaveral, Caruso's sire, never raced beyond seven furlongs, and made only four starts in three seasons of racing, but Caruso's dam, Bluestem Meadow, was produced by the mare Orrefor, the dam of Copper State. Beyond pedigree, however, Caruso may simply have too much talent for this group. He won his career debut July 15 at Arlington by six lengths, took a six-week break, then won the Troy Our Boy Stakes at Fairmount Park by more than nine. In the Sun Power, he and Chillin Villain raced together around the turn, but Caruso left his then-unbeaten rival in midstretch, pulling away to win by almost four lengths. His six-furlong time of 1:11 was good for a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 - a figure 23 points higher than any of his rivals Saturday have earned.

Hazelton believes Caruso can be equally effective around two turns. Around the barn, Caruso has a boisterous personality: Hazelton has referred to him as "a little goofy." But on the track, Caruso is all business. He has worked twice since the Sun Power, including a one-mile breeze on Dec. 3, and will certainly be forwardly placed Saturday.

I Got a Dream finished a close second to Mare's Ex last out in his two-turn debut, but was no match for Caruso in the Sun Power. At least I Got a Dream has won; the Edgar field includes five maidens. One of them, however, might have a shot. That I Am finished second in his lone start, a two-turn maiden race in open company.