10/12/2007 12:00AM

Dreaming of Anna in hunt for a crown

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Dreaming of Anna, with trainer Wayne Catalano up, at Keeneland on Tuesday. It's very likely she'll turn for home with the lead in Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Dreaming of Anna was a princess last year, but her reign came under siege once the calendar turned. And although there is no way the 2-year-old filly champion of 2006 will earn divisional honors again, she can win another crown of sorts when she takes on eight other 3-year-old fillies Saturday in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

Dreaming of Anna, with Garrett Gomez riding for the first time, could be a lukewarm favorite in the $500,000 QE II, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that drew a particularly strong contingent from New York, including four fillies out of the Grade 1 Garden City last month at Belmont Park. They all figure to be chasing Dreaming of Anna once the field turns for home in this 24th running of the QE II, which is the ninth of 10 Saturday races.

Dreaming of Anna started the year with three losses but followed up with three straight wins, capped by the Sept. 8 Pucker Up in her usual front-running style. Dreaming of Anna set solid fractions over the Arlington Park turf course that day, getting six furlongs in 1:12, and still ran the final furlong in a shade under 12 seconds while drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths.

"My filly came out of that race doing super," said Wayne Catalano, the ex-jockey who trains Dreaming of Anna for the powerhouse Chicago stable of Frank Calabrese. "She's a fast filly, a good filly, and sometimes when they're out there setting fractions like she does, it's hard to tell if the other horses are letting you do it or they just can't help it.

"This is her first race on the grass at Keeneland, and if she runs like she's been training over this Polytrack, she's going to be tough. They say this grass course can be a little different, but I don't know. We've won at Colonial, in Canada, and at Arlington, and I don't know what tracks compare to those, but I'd say my filly probably takes her track with her."

Dreaming of Anna will break from post 7. Her main challengers exit the Garden City on Sept. 8, a race in which the first eight horses were separated by less than three lengths. The respective 2-3-4-8 finishers are all here, and all merit a decent chance.

Among them, Costume, fourth in the Garden City, may stand the best chance to move up, considering she was making her first start stateside following six races in Europe.

Trained by John Gosden for the Garden City, she has since been transferred to Bobby Frankel.

"She's been doing really well since that one race," said Frankel. "The winner [Alexander Tango] ran by her that day, and she couldn't quicken, but I really think she'll improve off the race."

The others from the Garden City include Bit of Whimsy (second), a Barclay Tagg-trained filly with excellent tactical speed; Sharp Susan (third), winner of the Grade 2 Lake Placid two starts back for trainer Bill Mott; and Street Sounds (eighth), already a graded winner at Keeneland, having won the Grade 2 Beaumont in the spring over Polytrack.

Also in the QE II field are Good Mood, Classic Neel, Touch My Soul, and Coquerelle.

Three QE II winners have wheeled back in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf despite the short two-week turnaround between races: Perfect Sting (6th in the BC in 1999), Collect the Cash (11th in 2000), and Riskaverse (7th in 2002).

Also on the QE II program are the Grade 3, $200,000 Perryville Stakes (race 7) and four allowances (races 4, 5, 8, and 10). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern, with the QE II set for 5:15. The CBS telecast of the LSU-Kentucky football game, which is at nearby Commonwealth Stadium at 3:30, will be shown on the video infield board and on television monitors throughout the track.

The QE II, the last of five Grade 1 races at the 17-day Keeneland fall meet, was first run in 1984, when Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance. In May, the queen attended the 133rd Kentucky Derby, her first, to great fanfare.