06/24/2003 12:00AM

Cilio barn firing on all cylinders again

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CHICAGO - In April, trainer Gene Cilio's stable was unraveling. Now it's becoming unstoppable.

With four wins this weekend at Arlington, two in statebred stakes races, Cilio drew within one of Wayne Catalano, 16-15, in the local trainer standings. The horses Cilio trains have earned more than $463,000 here, almost double the next-highest total, and Saturday's stakes winners, Out of My Way and Act of War, may head into unrestricted races.

Not bad for a barn that had a rough spell two months ago. Cilio's horses winter in New Orleans and Chicago, but the focus is summer at Arlington. At Keeneland this spring - a stop on the way north - Cilio endured a spate of setbacks.

"I thought in early spring we'd have a good Arlington meet, but then we had those horses get hurt at Keeneland, good horses, too," Cilio said this week.

It hasn't mattered, as Cilio has rolled through the early portion of this meet, winning races in bunches. Stocking the stable are statebred horses that can win a maiden race and run through allowance conditions, horses like Invader and Square Wheels, two winners from last week.

And the barn's top end is moving up. Cilio had a horse for all six stakes races on Saturday's Prairie State Festival, and after losing four in a row he won the last two. Out of My Way put in a career-best effort to easily win the White Oak, sizzling six furlongs in 1:09.16, while Act of War, perhaps even more impressive, rallied from last to win the Cardinal Handicap going away.

Both have racked up miles - Out of My Way is 6, Act of War 5 - but reached peak form now.

Out of My Way had a breathing problem that was corrected through tieback surgery.

"Even when he was 3, he couldn't breath 100 percent. [The tieback] was a complete success, but it just took him awhile to get back to his best," Cilio said of his runner who had shown talent at 3. "We fooled around and fooled around until we got the right combination."

Out of My Way benefits from time between starts, and no immediate plans have been formed for this summer. Act of War is likely for the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap here July 26.

Like Out of My Way, Act of War was a good 3-year-old who later had injury problems.

"He was always meant to be a nice horse," Cilio said. "He had a condylar fracture. They put a couple screws in it, but that didn't work. We had to send him back, and they took the screws out and cleaned him up."

With only four grass starts, Act of War still has upside on turf. Saturday, he raced far behind a bulky field before mowing down accomplished horses with a tremendous burst of stretch speed.

Good Day Too set for U.S. debut

Ross Gilbert grew up on Chicago's North Side. He was 5 in 1930 when he first went to the races at Arlington. "I remember the horse my mother and father argued about betting on. It was something Davey. I can't quite recall the first part," Gilbert said.

Gilbert made his recollections Tuesday morning, far from Chicago, at his home next to the sea and Del Mar Racecourse. "It's not too bad here," he said.

Racing as Silver Star Stable, Gilbert has owned horses for 40 years, campaigning a handful of stakes runners in the United States, France, and England. He has never run a horse at Arlington - until now. Good Day Too, an Irish horse Gilbert bought this spring, arrived at Arlington's quarantine barn Sunday. Gilbert gets here Saturday afternoon, when Good Day Too makes his U.S. debut in the $175,000 Arlington Classic, a turf race for 3-year-olds.

"He beat 30 horses in his maiden," Gilbert said. "I saw him do it on video, and I bought him right after that."

Good Day Too raced two times for Gilbert in Ireland, where he was trained by Tommy Stack, twice finishing second in listed stakes races. The horse that beat him the first time, Refuse to Bend, won the English 2000 Guineas his next start.

"I'm pretty excited about coming," Gilbert said. "This is a good horse."

Good Day Too, who will wind up in trainer Chris Block's barn when he exits quarantine, is one of two imports here for the Arlington Classic. The other is named European, an unbeaten colt recently purchased by Team Valor. Others expected are Hidden Truth, Lismore Knight, Lone Star Deputy, Rapid Proof, Remind, and Scottago. Bannock Burner and Herculated are possible.

Reavis runner deserves look

Realism is the hallmark of a sharp claiming barn. Run a horse where it can win.

Claiming trainer Mike Reavis, a 29-percent winner this year, lost a horse named Pagliacci in a $6,000 claiming race April 13, and after watching him gallop two weeks later in another claimer, he and owner Rick Englander took Pagliacci back for $10,000 out of another easy win May 16. For now, Pagliacci is a claimer no more. After four published workouts, Pagliacci shows up in a second-level allowance, Arlington's featured eighth race Thursday.

Coming from a realistic barn, the move jumps out, and if Pagliacci's early speed controls this one-mile race, he can step up for a third consecutive victory.

A challenge should come from Standard Bearer, who didn't handle turf in his last start, but ran very well when fresh for a May 18 start.

On dirt, Standard Bearer has twice run big at Arlington in one-turn miles, and may be the one to spoil Pagliacci's surprise return to the allowance ranks.

* Sunday's $100,000 Hanshin Handicap, a Grade 3 at one mile on dirt, should draw a field of eight or nine. Bonus Pack, second here in the Black Tie Affair last month, could be the favorite. Also possible are Bright Valour and Apt to Be.