09/08/2006 11:00PM

Closing day theme: turf and Catalano


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The first Arlington Park meet in the post-Frank Gabriel era comes to an end on Tuesday, and Kevin Greely's initial season as racing secretary has produced a different look to the meet, the most prominent color of which is green.

Despite an unusually wet year in 2006, and a drought year in 2005, Arlington will run more grass races this season than last, and Greely has fully embraced that once-novel event in the Midwest - the turf sprint. In 2004, there were 10 such races here; this summer, there will be more than 50.

And while the closing-day feature, the Taylor's Special, failed to fill when entries were drawn Saturday (Nicole's Dream was in the race; few wanted a piece of her), Greely ushered five other turf races onto a nine-race card. And given Arlington's penchant for keeping races on a wet course this year, hurricane season may have to come to the Midwest for the races to move to the main track Tuesday.

The featured eighth is for second-level allowance horses or $35,000 claimers, and drew 11 entries, including a coupled pair from the barn of trainer Bobby Springer. Only one figures to start, since jockey James Graham was named on both Sobresaliente, who had a difficult trip last time out, and Page Turner, who hasn't raced since winning an entry-level turf allowance June 21.

But the horse to beat might in the closing-day feature, appropriately enough, hails from the barn of Wayne Catalano, whose first half-season was sub-par by his Arlington standards - think 27-percent wins, narrow lead in the trainer standings - but was followed by a vintage Catalano run the last two months of the season.

Catalano, thanks to the largesse of leading owner Frank Calabrese, will wind up with another monster win total when things conclude early Tuesday evening. Through Friday, he had 47 wins from 130 Arlington starters.

One of those winners was Formal Rush, who scored by three on July 13 in her first start for Catalano in an entry-level allowance. Up a level in class Aug. 25, Formal Rush caught soft turf and a slow pace, and ran evenly for third of nine. But that race might have been a bit tougher than Tuesday's, and though Formal Rush has the difficult outside post, she also has the services of Rene Douglas, who since Late July has worked magic when riding for Catalano.