02/08/2007 12:00AM

Dreaming of Anna returns in sprint

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Wayne Catalano had three choices for Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna's 3-year-old debut this winter at Gulfstream Park. There was the 6 1/2-furlong Old Hat or one-mile Davona Dale Stakes on Saturday, or the Gaily Gaily Stakes over the turf two weeks later.

The suspense ended early Thursday afternoon when Saturday's overnight revealed Catalano had decided on the $150,000 Old Hat, much to the chagrin of the connections of the five other 3-year-old fillies entered in the Grade 3 dash.

The Old Hat will be Dreaming of Anna's first start since she won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies to put an exclamation point on a perfect 2-year-old campaign.

"I just decided I'd rather bring her back going 6 1/2 furlongs rather than a mile," said Catalano, who trains Dreaming of Anna for owner Frank Calabrese. "I think a one-turn mile is probably the toughest race for a horse. And this also gives us another option to fall back on if something should happen during the next 48 hours."

Shortening up to a sprint after winning her last two starts around two turns should be no problem to Dreaming of Anna, a daughter of Rahy, who won her debut going 4 1/2 furlongs at Arlington Park and the Tippett Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs over the turf at Colonial Downs.

Catalano said his main goal at the moment is the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, although he won't rule out the possibility of starting the filly in the Kentucky Derby.

"Right now the Derby is too far off to really think about," said Catalano. "We'll just see how the picture starts developing and how she's doing at the time before making that decision."

Dreaming of Anna's regular jockey, Rene Douglas, who resumed riding here two weeks ago after being denied the privileges of the grounds when the meet opened, will retain the mount in the Old Hat.

Dreaming of Anna's chief competition could come from Dream Rush, who suffered her first setback in three starts when she was upset as the 1-5 favorite by Secretsoftheheart in a second-level allowance on Jan.o20. A daughter of Wild Rush, Dream Rush was victimized by a tough trip when she got trapped behind horses after rating off the early pace.

"I wanted to try to teach her to rate last time instead of getting her in the habit of being strictly a speed horse, and she wound up getting in trouble," said trainer Rick Violette.