08/23/2004 11:00PM

Catalissa ready, able - and unreliable

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They say Thursday is the slowest day in a five-day race week. Horseplayers typically are eager for action on Wednesdays after fasting since the previous Sunday, and payday Fridays kick off weekends of action-packed, classy racing.

Alas, that frequently leaves Thursdays as an island - and a barren one at that. As an example, the nine-race Thursday program at Arlington Park is bereft of even a single allowance race, a reminder of what can happen on a slow day here, especially in the wake of the Arlington Million and its outstanding supporting races.

The best races of the Thursday card are two high-end claiming races: a $30,000 turf route, carded as race 5, and a $35,000 one-turn mile, carded as race 8. The latter serves as the nominal feature, with eight older horses, including a Bernie Flint-trained entry, scheduled to run for a $30,000 purse.

, a Texas-bred gelding trained by Mike Stidham, is one of the major contenders despite a past performance chart that shows numerous layoff lines during a 12-race career that began nearly two years ago.

"He's had a lot of stops and starts, but when he's right, he can run some big races," Stidham said. "He's actually very talented and has run some pretty good numbers. Other times, he throws in clunkers, so obviously it depends on which Catalissa shows up."

As for Catalissa's chances on Thursday, Stidham said: "He's doing well, and I think he's going to run well. I think he'll show up, and he's in with the kind of horses that he can handle and that makes him competitive."

Besides Catalissa, the Flint entry of also rate strong chances. Of those, Stone Age may be more able, considering he just thumped slightly lesser company as an odds-on favorite here two weeks ago.

Like Flint, trainer Tom Amoss has two horses in the feature, albeit an uncoupled pair. Dia Alegre, a Chile-bred gelding, probably is the best of them, a winner of two of his last three starts at or near this claiming range.

* Champali, a probable heavy favorite in the $150,000 Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday, worked a bullet half-mile Monday in 47.20 seconds over a fast surface at his Churchill Downs home base. Champali is expected to be part of a small field in the six-furlong Arlington BC.