10/07/2004 11:00PM

Catalano-Calabrese give it another go

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STICKNEY, Ill. - They're back. The powerhouse team of trainer Wayne Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese, who split up suddenly last winter, has come together once again at Hawthorne.

Friday, on a sodden, unseasonably warm morning, Catalano was spotted trudging along a Hawthorne backstretch road, cell phone to his ear. There are two stables of horses for him to oversee now - 22 in Catalano's official Hawthorne quarters, and another 25 Calabrese-owned horses a few barns to the east. That makes just fewer than 50 in all, and Catalano, who loves the action, must be truly happy once again.

Apparently out of the mix is trainer Jodie Sinclair, who took over the Calabrese string in mid-summer when Calabrese and Pat Cuccurullo, Catalano's replacement last winter, went their separate ways. Sinclair, who came to Arlington from an assistant's job at Canterbury Park, won seven races during his abbreviated tenure. Sinclair did not return a phone call Friday.

Calabrese has dominated the owner standings in Chicago the last several years, but never more so than at Arlington when he was paired with Catalano. This is Catalano's third time around with Calabrese, and Catalano said he's putting the past behind him.

"I know Frank, and I like Frank," said Catalano. "We know each other real well - that's why we're back together."

Catalano assembled a good-sized string of horses for Turf Express Inc. in late winter, but he's now down to just a few horses for Turf Express, though one of them, Tamweel, is a graded-stakes horse. Calabrese's 25 have less quality. "We've got to weed through them," Catalano said.

The next decision for Catalano is where to spend the winter. The choices are Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Catalano's hometown, or south Florida, where Calabrese prefers to be. If the two can get through that impasse - let the winning begin again.

Shaitan, hale and hearty, putting it all together

The Illinois-bred turf horse Shaitan needed only one try to clear his first statebred allowance condition. That done, Shaitan barely missed winning a second-level allowance in his first start after moving up another rung on the class ladder. On Sunday, in Hawthorne's featured sixth race, there should be no stopping Shaitan, the certain favorite in an Illinois-bred turf race.

Shaitan has overcome plenty just to get here. Now 4, Shaitan was training along for his career debut at Fair Grounds soon after turning 3 in January 2003, but he broke a knee, which had to be surgically repaired, and was out of training until the next winter.

"I always thought he was a pretty nice horse," said trainer Richie Scherer. "We gave him a year off, and it gave him a chance."

Shaitan is by Lasting Approval and out of a Majestic Light mare. It's a turf pedigree, and Scherer assumed Shaitan would be meant for grass. He was right. Shaitan finally debuted June 18 at Arlington, and he lost two in a row on dirt before switching to grass, finishing fourth in his turf bow.

"He got very aggressive and dragged [jockey] James Graham all the way around there," Scherer said. "I took the blinkers off, and he's gotten to where you can do anything you want with him."

Shaitan ran off two straight turf victories at Arlington before his head loss at this class level last out. That day, Shaitan raced five wide while the horse that beat him slipped through on the rail. A better trip and a typical effort will get Shaitan home on top this time.

Sterling is still Reavis's main man

Trainer Mike Reavis and jockey Larry Sterling have formed a potent - and nearly inseparable - team the last several seasons at Hawthorne and the former Sportsman's Park. So it has been surprising to see Sterling taking calls for other trainers in Hawthorne races in which Reavis has entered a horse. On Friday's card, for instance, Sterling rode for other trainers in two races where Reavis was running.

But both Sterling and Reavis say that while the dynamics of the relationship might have shifted, their association essentially remains the same.

"He's still number 1," Sterling said of Reavis. "I'm still there for him 100 percent."

Partway through the Arlington meet, Sterling got a new agent, Michelle Barsotti, and that probably contributed to the growth of Sterling's business. At Hawthorne, for example, Sterling has ridden the bulk of the horses here from the Steve Asmussen stable.

And that's fine as far as Reavis is concerned.

"Listen, I only have my horses to train. He has an agent that gets him on other horses for other people," Reavis said. "He's got to choose the best one."

Through Thursday, Sterling was second to Chris Emigh in the jockey standings, trailing 16 wins to 10.

* Jockey Seth Martinez, who briefly ventured onto the Chicago circuit in 2003, is riding regularly at Hawthorne for trainer Hugh Robertson and his son, Mac. Martinez, a regular at Turf Paradise and Canterbury Park, had three wins here through Thursday.