12/19/2006 12:00AM

Catalano barn gave usual run for money

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CHICAGO - Coming out of another bang-up Arlington season, where training titles have become the normal course of events, Wayne Catalano was a bet-against early in the Hawthorne meet. The horses who had dominated at Arlington struggled, and the betting public was slow to adapt, continually pounding Catalano starters far below fair value.

But percentages work themselves out to historical norms over longer periods, and Catalano has been winning close to 30 percent of his starts for a few years now. His stable came back around at Hawthorne as the meet progressed, and after a strong run during the last few weeks he is in a position catch leading trainer Frank Kirby, whose 33 victories through Sunday were six more than Catalano's total.

That, at least, is the way things look on paper, but Catalano said the reality is different.

"I can't catch him," said Catalano. "I got six or seven left to run - he's probably got 60 left."

Not quite 60, but Catalano's point is well taken: The Kirby horses have been coming out in waves, even as Catalano positions himself for the upcoming Gulfstream meet.

Gulfstream is where My Calabrese will make his next start, probably back in the claiming ranks, Catalano said. But in terms of pure grit, My Calabrese should win some kind of local award. My Calabrese, bred and owned by Frank Calabrese, capped off an exceptional season on Saturday at Hawthorne with his sixth win in 2006. My Calabrese never threw in a clunker all year, finishing second or third in his only defeats. Catalano wore out $25,000 claiming sprints with him, winning three of them at Arlington and another at Hawthorne. The time was ripe for a class rise, and Catalano boosted My Calabrese into a third-level allowance for his Saturday score.

"We had to keep taking it easy, paying attention, dealing with some problems," Catalano said. "He was cut out to be a nice horse."

But My Calabrese's days of early promise came an eternity ago. Now 6, he made his career debut in December 2002, and didn't race between November 2003 and March 2006.

"He'll come to Florida and run for a ticket," said Catalano. "There's no more conditions left for him."

Razo to try Oaklawn

Eddie Razo is almost 41, and you wouldn't think at that age that a jockey would shake up his world. But Razo is leaving Chicago this winter for the first time in 12 years, going with longtime agent Lindy McDaniel on Jan. 5 to test the waters at Oaklawn Park.

"Me and Lindy have been talking about going somewhere," Razo said. "We were talking about going to Fair Grounds last year. This year, we decided we needed some kind of a change. I don't want to get too comfortable."

Razo said he and McDaniel hope to make inroads with stables from outside the Chicago area who may be looking for a jockey they know when the ship in for races at Arlington. In a normal year, Razo would head to Mexico for a winter visit. He was born in Mexico City just minutes from a racetrack. Then, back into winter to prep for the National Jockey Club meet. In 2007, there is no NJC meet, and there will be no Razo when Hawthorne starts its winter-spring racing season.

"I don't know how tough it's going to be down there, but we got some stables going over there that are going to give us a shot," Razo said of the Oaklawn meet.

Front-runners galore

On Hawthorne's Thursday program, an open entry-level allowance around two turns (race 7) and an Illinois-bred second-level sprint allowance (race 8) have a common characteristic - a surplus of early speed.

There are 10 fillies and mares in race 7, the two-turn race, and as many as six of them appear to want - or need - a position on the front end. How that will affect possible favorite Stormin Mon is hard to say. Stormin Mon, claimed for $50,000 out of her career debut last summer at Del Mar, has made only three starts, none of them around two turns. She may be at least slightly sent for position from an outside draw Thursday, and that could lead to a tough trip. Off-the-pace options include Superfine Time, Leaping Lily, and Bremer Red Rose.

In race 8, Roger G, Officer Bob, and Wyoming Frank seemed destined for a front-end smackdown. The Hawthorne racing surface wasn't carrying early speed late last racing week, and an intemperate pace could set things up for Campo, Shake, or Real Easy. Outside-drawn Rochester Cat missed by only a neck at the class level in his last start, but faces a wide trip if he is to avoid the speed duel.