11/01/2002 1:00AM

For encore, Calabrese will do more of same


STICKNEY, Ill. - They just set meet records for wins; everywhere you looked this summer at Arlington there were Frank Calabrese-owned, Wayne Catalano-trained horses popping up. The question is what to do for an encore.

More of the same, according to Catalano. "No, we're not taking it easy now," Catalano said Friday in the Hawthorne racing office. "My man likes action."

His man is Calabrese, and these days his revolving-door stable is populated primarily with claiming horses. Calabrese and Catalano claimed a lot at Arlington, and they had a lot of horses claimed from them. The constant shuttling of stock means many of the horses that might have needed a break aren't even in the barn anymore.

"We'll be claiming, running, doing the same thing," Catalano said.

When turf racing at Hawthorne comes to a close - limiting the opportunities for many of their runners - the Calabrese-Catalano horses will go to their winter quarters. This year, the stable will split between Fair Grounds, where Catalano has 35 stalls, and Gulfstream, where he has room for 20. With only about 35 horses at Hawthorne right now, these boys of summer should have a busy winter filling out their strings at both tracks.

Vanier's assistant gets his shot

No, the seemingly endless training career of Harvey Vanier hasn't come to an end, and the new name on the Vanier horses running at Hawthorne isn't really new at all. Brian Williamson has been Vanier's assistant for 12 years. He's also Vanier's son-in-law, having married Lyda Vanier some years ago.

When Vanier heads south to Florida for the winter, Williamson is left in charge of the Chicago string. The only difference this year is that Vanier has agreed to let Williamson run the stock in his name.

"I'm pretty excited about it," the quiet Williamson said. "We usually do pretty well at Hawthorne."

Williamson said Vanier is setting up shop with 16 horses at Gulfstream, while he has the bulk of the stable, 33 head, here at Hawthorne.

Claimers rise in class

Sunday's nominal feature is typical Hawthorne winter fare. A first-level sprint allowance for fillies and mares, the race looks a lot more like a conditioned claimer than an allowance race.

This is exactly what Chicago trainers do when racing switches from Arlington to Hawthorne: take a sharp claiming horse that has allowance conditions and jump ranks. In fact, 11 of the 12 fillies entered in the race, eighth of nine on the program, have raced for a claiming price sometime this year, and eight of them were in for a tag when they last raced.

Lady Lang has the best recent credentials, having finished second, beaten a half-length, in an Oct. 24 allowance at Arlington. Lady Lang, trained by Frank Kirby, looked like a winner that day, ranging up to challenge for the lead at the top of the stretch, but she lacked the needed force of will to pass the short-priced winner, Ashely G, in deep stretch.

Now, Lady Lang makes her third start in three weeks and is saddled with post 12. She may turn out to be a vulnerable favorite. At higher odds are Cloud Harbor, who showed an affinity for this surface earlier in the year, and Seattle Lake, the type of sharp claimer often effective this time of year in first-level allowance races.

Hawthorne continues to draw attractively deep fields. Five of Sunday's 12 races have full fields of 12 entrants, and average field size for the day is a healthy 10.

It's already winter here

The Chicago racing season completed its winter changeover Friday as Arlington closed its stable area and the last stragglers there shipped out. The Hawthorne backstretch has filled up with many of those horses from across town, but ship-ins from Great Lakes Downs also are fairly prominent here. Hawthorne has just about reached capacity, with about 2,100 horses on the grounds.

Friday's opening day came with sunny skies but cold temperatures. Lows Friday morning dipped into the 20's, and sunny skies in the afternoon were tempered by a stiff southerly breeze.

A surprisingly strong crowd trickled steadily in early Friday afternoon and business was being conducted at a brisk pace.