07/11/2002 12:00AM

El Malicia primary challenge to Gus


While 24 of trainer Steve Asmussen's best horses are scheduled to head from Churchill Downs to Saratoga early next week, some of the horses who had been stabled this spring at Churchill won't be making the trip.

Instead, some will join Asmussen's string at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. Among the horses who are helping to swell Asmussen's numbers to about 45 at Arlington is Golden Gus, who was good enough to win an entry-level allowance race at Churchill in his last start.

On Saturday, Golden Gus will attempt to proceed through his second condition when he is part of a field of 11 in the eighth of 10 Arlington races, a $37,000 allowance at six furlongs.

Golden Gus, bred and owned by Dorothy Long, has been quite consistent for Asmussen, having finished first or second in all but one of his five career starts. A 3-year-old colt by Gold Fever, he most recently powered to victory in a June 19 race at Churchill, an effort that probably will make him the favorite Saturday, even on the requisite class raise.

El Malicia, a Chicago-based colt trained by Eusebio Razo Sr., probably is the main challenger to Golden Gus. El Malicia began his career with two sparkling victories at Arlington last September, and although he was beaten in his two subsequent starts, they were both against tough company in Kentucky.

Other contenders in a solid field include three other recent shippers from Kentucky: Tone of Gold, making his first start in four months; Kiss Me Goodbye, a recent claim by David Vance; and General Tibbetts, who was a sharp second in his last start for trainer Walt Bindner Jr.

History buffs may be interested to know that General Tibbetts is named for Paul Tibbetts, a retired Air Force brigadier general who in 1945 was the pilot of the Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

* The next Arlington stakes comes a week from Saturday with the $100,000 Hanshin Handicap, a Grade 3, one-mile race for older horses.

* Although there is no Churchill Downs Simulcast Network pick four Saturday, there will be one more CDSN pick four next Saturday, with Ellis Park taking the spot previously occupied by Churchill Downs. Arlington, Calder and Hollywood are the other participating CDSN tracks.

* Veteran jockey Carlos Silva won the second race Thursday at Arlington aboard Foxey Jeblar ($13), bringing him to within three of the 3,000-win milestone.