06/15/2008 11:00PM

Dreaming of Anna's form remains solid


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Horseplayers savvy enough to hit the late daily double Saturday at Churchill Downs were rewarded - if that is the right word - with a $4.40 payoff. Ouch. Curlin coming back to Dreaming of Anna might have been one of the chalkiest multi-race wagers in recent parimutuel history, but there was more to this double than money alone.

Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year and presently the best racehorse on the planet, is in a class by himself, but Dreaming of Anna has a right to stand on the same stage.

"That was a fitting double, I thought," said trainer Wayne Catalano, who had Dreaming of Anna tucked into her own stall at Arlington Park less than 24 hours after the filly won the Mint Julep Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths.

The victory gave Dreaming of Anna 10 wins from 15 career starts and put her less than $12,000 away from the $2 million mark in career earnings. Only once in her career has Dreaming of Anna finished worse than third, and only twice has she been worse than second. She has won going 4 1/2 furlongs on dirt, and she has won going nine furlongs on turf. The champion 2-year-old filly of 2006, Dreaming of Anna came back with a three-win 3-year-old season and already has racked up three victories and one tough loss in her 4-year-old year. In an era when high-class form can seem fleeting, Dreaming of Anna has turned into a rock.

Dreaming of Anna has raced only in Grade 3s so far in 2008, but that is going to change, perhaps as soon as her next start.

"The goal with her has always been the Beverly D. and the Breeders' Cup," said Catalano, who reported that Dreaming of Anna had come out of the Mint Julep in good condition.

And while the Grade 1 Beverly D. does not come until Aug. 9, Catalano said he and owner-breeder Frank Calabrese are considering starting Dreaming of Anna there without a prep.

"There's a good possibility she won't run until then," he said.

Monday morning, Dreaming of Anna's 5-year-old brother Lewis Michael took another step toward his 2008 debut, working with Catalano himself in the irons. Lewis Michael was credited with a six-furlong breeze in a strong 1:12.60, but Catalano said he'd actually gone five-eighths with a six-furlong gallop-out.

"I'm looking for a race for him now," Catalano said.

Polytrack slows as weather warms

Arlington Park trackman Javier Barajas, who has played an integral role in the Polytrack era here, was taking heat from horsemen a couple of weeks ago.

"I was getting beat up from the trainers saying the track was too fast," Barajas said. "I told them I was doing the best I could."

There hasn't been a trainers-trackman forum in two weeks now, but the track's-too-fast critique no longer is holding water. The surface has slowed considerably the last two racing weeks, with nary a day of the lightning-fast times that were present early in this meet, which began May 3.

Between May 3 and May 25, all-weather course records were set at six furlongs, 6 1/2 furlongs, and one mile - all commonly run distances - and horses of all ability levels were sizzling through races. Six-furlong times in 1:09 and change became the norm, and while the track played fair, it definitely was playing fast.

But while a 2-year-old named My Dominick James set a 4 1/2-furlong course mark June 8, that performance was very much an outlier. Six-furlong times now average somewhere over 1:11, and workout times have also been much slower lately.

Funny thing, Barajas said, is that he and his crew have had little to do with it.

"The track started to change when the temperature went from the 40s to the high 50s overnight," Barajas said.

In fact, Barajas believes that temperature is the major driver concerning the Arlington Polytrack. During the cool period in May, he would roto-till the surface on a Wednesday, and by first post Thursday it would be tight as a drum.

"Now, if I go deep on it on a Tuesday, it's still good on Thursday," Barajas said.

Barajas said that besides the fast times, he's had no issues with Polytrack this year. The surface continues to drain well and has consistently played fairly this meet. Barajas said the only thing he notices is that "the color is a lot darker than it was at the beginning of last year." The color change, though, results only from the rubber tires of maintenance vehicles and the ambulance passing over the Polytrack, Barajas said.

* The first Wednesday of racing at this meet went without a definable feature race. With the switch to a five-day racing week, Arlington will card only eight races Wednesday and Thursday before upping the number Friday through Sunday.