03/23/2007 12:00AM

Fresh pair fit nicely

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The quality Hawthorne's feature races has begun to pick up in recent weeks, and a prime example of that positive trend is Sunday's $45,000 Merry Colleen Stakes for older fillies and mares, which counts two graded-placed runners among its six entrants.

The 1 1/16-mile Merry Colleen marks the seasonal debut for Coolwind and Stop a Train, who both impressed Chicago race fans last summer at Arlington with several overnight victories between them and a runner-up finish in separate Grade 3 events.

Coolwind was one of the better Chicago-based 3-year-olds last season, winning a one-mile overnight stakes at Arlington before bowing to Churchill invader Cryptoquip by a half-length in the Grade 3 Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks. Unraced since late November, Coolwind only recently shipped up from her winter base at Tampa Bay Downs.

Stop a Train, now 5, was still a maiden at this time last year, and it was not until she moved across town to Arlington in early May that she finally won her first race. It didn't take long for her to build on that record, however, as she won four of her next seven, capping her campaign with a victory in the Illini Princess Handicap at Hawthorne on Nov. 11. But her best race might have been her second-place finish to Sea Siren in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron, for which she received a 92 Beyer Speed Figure.

Though class often tells in races like the Merry Colleen, Turbulent Thinking has a legitimate chance to upend the two favorites. Down on her luck when entered in an $18,000 claimer last April, Turbulent Thinking ran a much improved race that day and was claimed by trainer Roger Brueggemann, who sent her to Canterbury in search of easier pickings. She reappeared at Hawthorne in November a much sharper mare, upsetting a pair of optional claimers and defeating Coolwind by more than two lengths.

With strong works, an inside post, and early speed, Turbulent Thinking might continue the recent trend of Brueggemann-trained horses dominating the local scene.