07/22/2002 11:00PM

A good spot for Golden Antigua

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CHICAGO - A different outfit might have taken a shot with Golden Antigua on Saturday in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap. But trainer Wayne Catalano and stable agent Steve Leving don't take shots with owner Frank Calabrese's horses. They win races with them.

So instead of trying the Modesty, Golden Antigua faces six rivals Thursday in a stakes-class turf allowance at Arlington. The race is tough, but as Catalano said, "She makes it tough."

He ought to know. A former jockey, Catalano gallops and works many of his own horses, and he was aboard Golden Antigua when she turned in a bullet half-mile work in 47 seconds July 15. When Catalano says the mare is training well, he's not repeating what he's observed and heard from his exercise riders - it's what he's felt beneath him. "That was as slow as I can make her go," he said.

With 22 wins from 53 starts, Catalano is the leading trainer at Arlington, and Calabrese the runaway leading owner. But there's only so much Catalano can do for his horses. When they race, they have to perform, and in her last start, an overnight stakes here July 4, Golden Antigua messed up.

"She just tried to go through the gate a second before they sprung it," Catalano said.

Her poor start put Golden Antigua in a hole she couldn't quite climb out of. With a slow pace in front of her, Golden Antigua played catch-up against a good group of horses and fell just short, finishing third, beaten a neck by Lady of Peace and a nose by Applesolutely.

With a better break Thursday, Golden Antigua and leading rider Rene Douglas can stick close to what should be a moderate pace. Applesolutely, who led for all but the final stride in the July 4 race, may wind up in front again. Her neck loss last out was a big step in the right direction for an enigmatic mare that has failed to run to the vast potential she first showed two years ago.

Ellie's Rose, who has won 3 of 4 grass starts since being claimed for $25,000 last fall by trainer Michelle Boyce, races for the first time since she easily won the Lincoln Heritage Stakes on June 22. The break between starts came by design, however, as Boyce patiently awaited a good spot for Ellie's Rose, who is a different mare since being switched to turf.

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