06/17/2003 11:00PM

Catalano deals with lull


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When trainer Wayne Catalano gets rolling, he makes winning horse races look easy.

Class-droppers, turf horses, claimers, and 2-year-olds - Catalano's stable will go through a month-long cycle at Arlington winning everything in sight. So when Catalano hits a dry spell - it's inevitable - a blip can quickly feel like a drought. And as of Wednesday, Catalano and his owner, Frank Calabrese, had lost 18 straight races. Before the string of losers, they had been winning at about a 40-percent clip, making this fallow period seemingly last forever.

"It's a reality check, is what it is," Catalano said Wednesday. "We should have won a couple, but that's horse racing. We're at 29 percent right now. I'd love to stay there and have people say you're doing bad."

Even now, Catalano has a six-win lead in the trainer standings, and Calabrese is miles ahead of other owners. Still, Calabrese expects to win more than many owners. Last week, despite the great run the last few years, he fired his stable manager, Steve Leving.

And with a claiming operation like this one, maintaining momentum for more than a few weeks can be difficult.

"These things come in bunches. That's the way it is," Catalano said. "We're just going to keep doing the same things we do - working on a horse to find a race it can win. I told Frank, I'm going to step back, push the reset button and go again. Mr. Calabrese has been bearing with me. He's been great with that."

This is nothing a stakes win wouldn't help cure, and Calabrese has a chance for one Saturday. Lord Jones has won only twice in 19 starts, but Catalano has trained him for less than two months. Calabrese bought Lord Jones privately in early May, and late last month he crushed statebred allowance opponents here by 12 lengths, a performance that earned him a spot in Saturday's Springfield Stakes.

"The horse ran huge, and he got a big number," Catalano said. "He's been training great. I thought he could win a couple allowance races, and you can make money that way with an Illinois-bred, but at first I never thought about a stakes."

Large group for Springfield

The Springfield is one of six $75,000 statebred stakes races here Saturday in the Prairie State Festival, and while graded stakes horses won't abound, the races will have big, competitive fields. The Springfield, featuring Shandy, Wiggins, He's Hammered, and Lord Jones, is no exception, nor is the day's crowning event, the Cardinal, which is for older horses at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Mystery Giver, an eight-time turf winner and the Cardinal's defending champion, should be a formidable favorite. But, he'll have nine rivals, among them the pinto-sized Colorful Tour, who shipped here Tuesday night from Prairie Meadows in Iowa.

Noel Hickey trains Colorful Tour, and Hickey's stable is summering at Prairie Meadows for the first time. Once Arlington's top trainer, Hickey and Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois began a well-publicized feud in 1997, and Hickey no longer has stalls here.

Colorful Tour, Hickey's best horse in years, will be Hickey's first starter at this meet. Colorful Tour is a tiny chestnut colt with wide splashes of white and a huge heart. On dirt, Colorful Tour has won 10 of 16 starts, but he's 0 for 3 on turf.

"I think he had excuses in a couple of those races," Hickey said Wednesday from his Irish Acres Farm near Ocala, Fla. "I really don't know how he'll be on it, but I want to try him on grass right now. Mystery Giver is a very good horse there, so we'll know after this."

In Secure could try Belmont

In Secure, the undefeated 3-year-old filly who won the Real Delight Stakes here May 31, may be headed to New York for her next race. Lara Van Deren, trainer Louie Roussel's assistant, said Roussel might send In Secure to Belmont for the Grade 1 Prioress July 4.

Bright Valour, an impressive Arlington allowance winner in his last start for Roussel, also could wind up at Belmont for the Tom Fool Handicap, which is on the same program as the Prioress. Bright Valour also could run in the Hanshin Handicap here next weekend.

Roussel bred In Secure and co-owns her with Ronnie Lamarque, and they have a nice filly on their hands. The Real Delight was her third win in as many tries, and she has continued to train well since that race.

"She worked really well on [June 14]," Van Deren said. "She wanted to gallop out, and usually she gears it down at the wire."

Summer Mis returns quickly

Summer Mis usually gets at least three weeks between starts. This time, she's getting six days.

Fourth Saturday in the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap, Summer Mis was entered Wednes-day for the Isaac Murphy Handicap on Prairie State Day.

"It's not something I'd normally do," trainer Tony Mitchell told the Arlington publicity staff. "But she's coming back from that last race real good."

It's no surprise Reno Rumble is racing at Arlington on Prairie State weekend, but he's a day ahead of his normal routine. Reno Rumble finished second in the Cardinal Handicap in 2000, won it in 2001, and finished a close sixth in the race last season. But Reno Rumble is now 9, and instead of the Cardinal, trainer Chris Block has picked out a high-level claiming spot for him Friday.

Reno Rumble's lone 2003 start, at Tampa, resulted in a ninth-place finish, but at his age, Reno Rumble needs time to get into racing shape. He may be there now, and has a solid group of six rivals to beat in Friday's seventh race, a $60,000 claiming race at about one mile on grass.

* Rene Douglas, off his mounts Wednesday through Friday because of a suspension, will be back in action here Saturday.