08/08/2006 11:00PM

'Handsome' could steal turf sprint

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Lewis Michael, the excellent 3-year-old owned by Frank Calabrese and trained by Wayne Catalano, was out on the Arlington turf course for an easy half-mile breeze on Wednesday morning, though his next start could come in a dirt race at Fairmount Park or Saratoga. But Catalano and Calabrese have another 3-year-old who will take to the turf on Friday at Arlington, and though It's Handsome I Am does not have the class and inherent ability of Lewis Michael, he is a blazingly fast turf sprinter.

The question is whether It's Handsome I Am is fast enough to hold off Grand Escape in Friday's second race, a second-level allowance carded for about five furlongs on the grass course. He was when the pair met in the Beau Genius, an overnight turf-sprint stakes on June 24 at Churchill, where It's Handsome I Am was second and Grand Escape third behind the brilliantly quick Maryland-based Smart Enough. But Grand Escape had early trouble that afternoon that might have compromised his chance to catch It's Handsome I Am, and while Grand Escape came back with a strong entry-level allowance win here July 22, It's Handsome I Am was defeated at 4-5 when he ran back in a second-level turf-sprint allowance here July 8.

"I thought he ran his race that day," Catalano said. "I just thought he got outrun. He's doing good now."

While Catalano isn't convinced of it, It's Handsome I Am might not have been quite at his peak coming back just two weeks after the good second in the Churchill overnight stakes. He has post 3, and as the possible controlling speed in Friday's second, he could be tough to catch with a return to his best course - especially since speed generally has carried well on this course throughout the summer.

If It's Handsome I Am is to be harassed on the lead, it might have to be by Grand Escape himself. Though Grand Escape came from fourth to win last time, he does have the speed to at least keep It's Handsome I Am within range.

Rungius might also get betting support, since trainer Tom Amoss is in the midst of a months-long hot streak, and Rungius earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in his most recent start. But Rungius never has tried turf, and on form does not seem especially well suited to a distance as short as five furlongs. A longshot hope is Creek Bay, a one-turn horse whose only two turf tries have come in route races.