06/29/2003 11:00PM

Catalano barn busts out


CHICAGO - They were not crying for him on the Arlington backstretch. More like looking on with curiosity ranging from morbid to rabid. How long would trainer Wayne Catalano's losing streak last?

No longer than Saturday, it turned out. Catalano, whose runners dominated the early portion of this meet, snapped a streak of 25 straight losers when Entrepreneurship won on Saturday's program. The hole in the dike having been opened, Catalano flooded Sunday's card with three winners. The last of them, an Argentine import named Ajedrez, looks like a horse of stakes quality.

Many trainers have lost 25 races in a row, but Catalano trains for the owner Frank Calabrese, whose appetite for winning wavers between voracious and insatiable. About two weeks ago, Calabrese had fired his stable manager, Steve Leving, and as the losing streak grew racetrack rumors rumbled: Calabrese was leaving Catalano; Catalano was striking out on his own.

Catalano steadfastly denied them all, and Monday thanked Calabrese for his support.

"I stayed pretty calm," Catalano said. "I tried not to let it get to me. There are always people in Frank's ear, but he hung in there with me, and I appreciate it."

Sunday's winners were not the stable's typical batch of claimers. Beautiful Crazy won a first-level turf allowance race for fillies; My Calabrese won a first-level allowance race for 3-year-old sprinters; and Ajedrez won a seven-furlong, first-level allowance race for older horses. Ajedrez, making his first start outside Argentina, was the standout. Though he must first work his way up the allowance ladder, Ajedrez was Group 1-placed in Argentina and may wind up a stakes horse here.

Catalano said Ajedrez was part of a deal packaging three Argentine horses that arrived in Florida in early April and came to Catalano's Arlington barn a couple of weeks later.

Ajedrez beat a modest group Saturday, but did so impressively. Rating behind horses for jockey Eddie Razo Jr., Ajedrez was perfectly relaxed as Razo looked for room at the quarter pole. When Razo found a spot in the stretch, Ajedrez quickly sprinted clear and won by open lengths.

"He galloped out with his ears pricked," Catalano said. "If we can get him another allowance win, we can look at high class stuff."

Lismore Knight may try Secretariat

Winning Saturday's Grade 2 Arlington Classic may have been the easy part of Lismore Knight's trip to Arlington from New York. Sunday night, Lismore Knight boarded a van for a long, hot ride back to trainer Todd Pletcher's Belmont barn, where he arrived Monday apparently no worse for wear.

"He seemed to ship okay," Pletcher said. "The important thing was getting him a flight there. There was no connecting flight coming back, but flying back wasn't as important."

If and when Lismore Knight returns to Arlington this summer remains to be seen. Pletcher said the July 20 American Derby, the second leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple, comes up too soon for Lismore Knight. But, Pletcher did suggest Lismore Knight could train straight into the Grade 1 Secretariat here Aug. 16. The colt's other option is the Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga.

"The Secretariat's $400,000 and a Grade 1," Pletcher said. "That's pretty important. The horse always has run well fresh. He won his career debut, and he won the allowance race his first start this year after a layoff."

Arlington investigating betting

Arlington issued a statement Sunday concerning a late odds-drop during a race on Saturday's card. Rainy Day Rules left the gate for the second race at odds of 9-1, but dropped to 5-1 during the race as she ran on a clear lead. Never threatened, Rainy Day Rules won by almost five lengths and paid $13.80.

Rainy Day Rules, trained by Paraskevas Mitchell, was making her first start since early May. Her form was moderately competitive for the class level, non winners of two conditioned claiming for 3-year-old fillies.

"Arlington Park management is reviewing the wagering," Arlington president Cliff Goodrich said in the released statement. "Once more information has been obtained and reviewed, we will make it available to the public."

This was the first mid-race odds drop to gain attention this meet. Odds drops caused several racetracks to impose early wagering cutoffs earlier this year, but most of those rules have been relaxed.