09/23/2002 11:00PM

Cup luring classy juveniles early


CHICAGO - The effect of having the World Thoroughbred Championships is rippling backward into the Arlington meet, just as Arlington officials had hoped. For surely it's the fact that Arlington has the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies that has induced the connections of so many promising young horses to consider Arlington's pair of 2-year-old graded stakes Saturday.

As of early this week, full fields of 14 remained a possibility for both the Arlington-Washington Futurity and the Arlington-Washington Lassie, Grade 3 races at one mile on dirt that will prep the best of the runners for a start in the Breeders' Cup.

There are no stars lined up for either of the races, but many lesser-known horses who could vault into national prominence with a standout performance on Saturday. And no local horse has shown more raw promise at this meet than Ashraaf, the 2-year-old filly who won her maiden by 10 1/2 lengths here Sept. 14. It was not just the margin of victory that made Ashraaf so impressive, but the fact she rated kindly from off the pace in her first try beyond a sprint and won by so much even when she was taken out of her highest gear after drawing away to a huge lead in midstretch.

Talent has never been at issue with Ashraaf. Trainer Eoin Harty held her in high regard throughout this year, but after two losses in California, Harty decided Arlington was the best place for Ashraaf, a somewhat high-strung filly who had been coming unglued mentally, taking away from her raw talent.

Here, Ashraaf has benefited from a quieter environment. Outfitted with a hood and ear mufflers for the first time in her maiden win, she made the trip from Godolphin's barn to Arlington's paddock and onto the track without losing her composure. The Godolphin stable has continued the effort to settle Ashraaf since her win, and Davey Duggan, an assistant trainer, said Ashraaf has been spending close to two hours on the track each day. She walks around the track before breezing, and has been schooling in the paddock twice a day.

Monday, she had an easy five-furlong work in about 1:04. "You don't have to do much with her," Duggan said.

Duggan hopes Ashraaf will remember the positive experience she had in her maiden win, and hopes to duplicate the circumstances that led to it. Tuesday, he found that Ashraaf could even have the same rider, Frank Lovato, who relaxed her so well last time.

Lovato also is the rider for the highly promising Caucus, but trainer Mike Stidham said Caucus might now head to the Alcibiades at Keeneland rather than run in the Lassie.

Souris, winner of the Top Flight Stakes here, also worked for the Lassie Monday, breezing a half-mile in 50.20 seconds. Others intended for the race are Bolaro, Calldara, Competitive Edge, Explosive Beauty, Fabulous Brush, Moonlight Sonata, Sea Bloom, and Black Heart, a supplemental nominee. Several other fillies are possible for the race.

Werner back in town

Several contenders for the Futurity also turned in final workouts Monday, including Godolphin's pair of Sharp Impact and Anasheed. Sharp Impact, winner of the Spectacular Bid here and the more polished of the two, worked a snappy five furlongs in 1:00.80. Anasheed, working with another horse, went five furlongs in 1:03.60.

"I give him something to run at when he works," Duggan said of Anasheed. As for Sharp Impact, "he's race fit now, so we'll find out Saturday if he can stay the mile."

Also spotted on the track Monday morning was the saddle towel of trainer Ronnie Werner, who spent last summer at Arlington, but was stabled this year at Monmouth. Werner shipped in early Monday morning with his Futurity hopeful, Most Feared, who breezed a half-mile in 48.20 seconds just a couple of hours after his arrival.

"This colt's been at enough tracks that nothing bothers him," Werner said.

Werner, not long removed from training Quarter Horses, has a knack for getting young horses to run exceptionally fast early in their 2-year-old season, but Most Feared doesn't fit that type. Most Feared wasn't able to win short sprints this past spring, so Werner waited and stretched the colt out to a mile at Monmouth, and Most Feared has responded with consecutive wins, most recently taking the Continental Mile by more than nine lengths.

Echeverria is the probable favorite for the Futurity. Trained by Bob Baffert, Echeverria finished second to Private Gold in the Ellis Park Juvenile in his last race.

Cat Genius by daylight again

Cat Genius isn't going to the Futurity, but was as impressive as any 2-year-old this meet when he won a six-furlong allowance race by 11 3/4 lengths Friday. Trained at the time by Mike McEachern, Cat Genius debuted Aug. 11 at Mountaineer Park, winning a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race by 10 1/4 lengths.

Owner John Parker quickly moved Cat Genius to a bigger stage, sending Cat Genius to trainer Tom Amoss shortly after that first win. "He bought eight horses on the agreement that they could go to a bigger stable if they were good enough," Amoss said.

Cat Genius quickly impressed Amoss, turning in a series of fast workouts at Churchill Downs. Despite Cat Genius's works and blowout maiden win, Amoss felt the colt would benefit from adding blinkers, which he wore for Friday's race. "The stewards chuckled at first, but they listened to what I had to say," said Amoss.

Amoss isn't certain how far Cat Genius wants to run, but said the colt will start at a slightly longer distance, and probably in a stakes race, when he next runs.