08/13/2006 11:00PM

Confederation looking good for Hobby

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CHICAGO - There are many former racehorses turned saddle ponies, but not many with a following as large as that of Chindi, a foal of 1994 who raced into 2005, his gray coat whitening year by year as his powerful late kick ebbed. Chindi's work this summer at Arlington Park is less demanding than during his racing years.

"He doesn't have to do to much," trainer Steve Hobby said. "He takes me out to the track a couple times each day, rolls in the sand pile, and eats grass. He loves it."

For Hobby, however, life as a trainer pushes on. There was a particularly tough spot last month when Just Ducky, a kind, decent 3-year-old filly, suffered a catastrophic breakdown in an overnight stakes race. But the Arlington meet in general has been typically productive for the Hobby

stable, with 8 wins and 15 seconds from 50 starters. New to the barn a couple of months ago was a 4-year-old gelding named Confederation, who finished second in his Arlington and Hobby debut July 28, and he seems to be well spotted to win the featured eighth race on Wednesday, a second-level allowance at one mile.

Confederation made his first eight starts in the barn of Todd Pletcher, winning a Gulfstream Park maiden race late in the winter of 2005 and an entry-level Belmont allowance

later in the spring. But then Confederation's form grew spotty. When Hobby went to look at him, he was turned out at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky.

"A friend of mine, Buzz Chace, called me and said I should maybe buy the horse," Hobby said.

Bill Hardin now owns Confederation, and the horse pleased Hobby with a solid second-place finish to a sharp winner here late last month in a six-furlong race, shorter than Confederation's ideal distance.

"I was very pleased," said Hobby. "Three-quarters of a mile isn't really his deal."

There is, however, the Catalano factor to consider in the Wednesday feature. Wayne Catalano has opened breathing room atop the Arlington trainer standings - he leads Tom Tomillo 36-28 - with a big mid-meet run. Since July 1, Catalano has won with 18 of 41 starters, and since July 25, he has gone 11 for 21. In Thursday's eighth Catalano sends out Cat and a Half, who has been entered and scratched from a couple of spots. Though mainly a claimer in his career, he starts this time at the second allowance condition, a strong positive sign from the barn.