08/05/2008 11:00PM

Dreaming of Anna the hometown hope

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Barbara D. Livingston
Dreaming of Anna, winner of the 2006 BC Juvenile Fillies, has made her last eight starts on turf, winning six times.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Beverly D. is a Chicago race, but it's not like Chicago horses are ever involved. The Grade 1 race always has been dominated by elite fillies and mares, mostly from California and New York, with local horsemen doing little other than spectating.

This year, however, a local filly is a major contender in the Beverly D. - and her Chicago ties hardly could be any stronger. Dreaming of Anna, a former Eclipse champion and an earner of nearly $2 million, will carry the hopes of the perennial leading connections at Arlington Park as one of the favorites in the $750,000 turf race.

Frank Calabrese is the breeder and owner, and Wayne Catalano is the trainer, of Dreaming of Anna, whose nearly seamless transition from dirt to turf has lifted her into the top echelon of the filly-mare turf division in North American racing. She figures no worse than third choice, behind only Precious Kitten and Mauralakana.

"I'd love to win Saturday," said Catalano. "For Frank, for myself, and for Chicago."

Calabrese, who will turn 80 in November, grew up in the Little Italy section of Chicago, hanging around illicit bookie joints while learning the racing game. He eventually went into the printing business, got into Standardbred racing once he started making money, then switched to Thoroughbreds in the early 1980s. He has won or tied for top owner at Arlington every year since 2000, with his 74 winners in 2007 being the most in track history.

Catalano, a New Orleans native who won nearly 1,800 races as a jockey, turned to training in 1983. He grew his stable steadily and won a combined 257 races in 1988-89, but it wasn't until he and Calabrese joined forces in the mid-1990s that he became a player in bigger-money races. Catalano, 52, has topped the Arlington standings six of the last eight years.

Both Calabrese and Catalano are known as temperamental and opinionated, and their business relationship has had its ups and downs as a result. In early 2004, they split apart, only to learn that neither fared as well. They eventually reunited after about a year, and today they are doing as well as ever. At the current Arlington meet, they had teamed to win with a meet-leading 42 of their first 93 starters for a phenomenal 45 percent strike rate, and they also regularly run stakes horses like Dreaming of Anna and her full brother, Lewis Michael, in nationally prominent races.

"Yeah, we're doing better," said Calabrese, quickly adding - and apparently kidding - "now that he's listening to me."

Dreaming of Anna, by Rahy, always has been a top-class horse. She won all four of her starts as a 2-year-old, culminating with a victory in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and a divisional Eclipse Award. All along, Catalano had said he expected the filly to develop into a major force on turf, and after some minor disappointments early in 2007, he mostly has been proved correct. To date, the filly has 10 wins and 3 seconds from 15 starts for career earnings of $1,988,175.

"The way she runs, how she worked and stuff, I always thought she'd be better on the grass than the dirt," Catalano said shortly before climbing aboard Dreaming of Anna early Wednesday for a routine gallop. "She's proved me right."

Dreaming of Anna has raced exclusively on turf since finishing a distant sixth in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks, posting 6 wins and 2 seconds in 8 starts. With the exception of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last October at Keeneland, which came against 3-year-olds, she has run mostly in Grade 3 races, so the Beverly D. amounts to a major step up in class.

"These fillies are the best around, no doubt about it," said Catalano. "But the older she's got, the stronger she's got, and now that the best are coming to town, this is the perfect spot to try her in. This is the big Beverly D."

Garrett Gomez, who rode Dreaming of Anna in her last race, a victory in the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap on June 14 at Churchill, will have the mount back Saturday.

Catalano said he does not have strong reservations about the 1 3/16-mile distance of the Beverly D. for Dreaming of Anna, who always shows early speed and figures to set or contest the pace, along with Rosinka.

"People thought she'd have trouble with 1 1/8 miles, but she's shown she can handle that," said Catalano. "Obviously, this is a little different, especially with the company, but I've got a lot of confidence in her."

Partly because of irascible and mercurial manner, Calabrese is not overly popular among owners and trainers in Chicago. But he believes most of the home folks will be pulling for him Saturday.

"Everyone complains about how the outsiders come in and take all our money away with them on Million Day," he said. "For us to win the Beverly D. would be great for Arlington Park and for Chicago racing."