06/21/2001 11:00PM

Hattiesburg, what a deal!


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When Nelson Bunker Hunt, once an important Thoroughbred owner, jumped back into the game a couple years ago, he focused on buying mid-level prospects, not the high-end market. In the filly Hattiesburg, Hunt made a savvy purchase. A 3-year-old by the young sire Mutakddim, Hattiesburg already has earned more than eight times her $20,000 yearling sales price, and on Sunday she will start as the favorite at Arlington in the $50,000-added Ribbon Stakes.

Hattiesburg has won consecutive stakes, the Goldfinch at Prairie Meadows and the Wafare Farm at Lone Star, where she beat the good sprinter Cheryl P., to run her career record to 5 wins from 9 starts.

"She's kind of a progressing filly," said trainer Tom Amoss, "so we're trying to take one small step at a time. She was good at Prairie Meadows and at Lone Star. She might have to be even better in Chicago."

Hattiesburg, who drew the rail and will be ridden by Mark Guidry, faces seven other 3-year-old fillies, none of whom can match her accomplishments. Moreover, Hattiesburg, a one-run sprinter, makes her first start at seven furlongs, a distance that should suit her talent. "If the track's fair, we should get a good indication of where we are with her," Amoss said.

With a win, Hattiesburg would surpass $200,000 in earnings and enhance her status as one of the better horses in Hunt's current stable. "I enjoy training for Mr. Hunt," Amoss said. "He's a sophisticated owner. You can talk to him about the business and he understands what you're saying."

Two fillies appear to have the best chance at an upset, Soul Onarazorsedge and Sams Tune. Soul Onarazorsedge lost an eye in a paddock accident when she was a foal but has overcome that disability to win three starts, including an easy victory in the Pollyana Pixie Stakes last month at Hawthorne. Trainer Gene Brajczewski gives a return call to jockey Zoe Cadman, who rode the filly well at Hawthorne.

Sams Tune, trained by Gene Cilio, has won 2 of 5 starts and most recently finished third in a very strong allowance race at Churchill Downs.

Touch Tone may go in Iowa Derby

Touch Tone, who suffered his first loss when he finished third in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge on the Belmont undercard, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 here on June 19 and will probably make his next start July 6 in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. Trainer Ronny Werner, reached at Lone Star Park, said he had also nominated Touch Tone to the July 8 Dwyer at Belmont, but was leaning toward the $250,000 Derby.

Touch Tone, a 3-year-old owned by Tom Durant, won his first two starts impressively, leaping from a maiden win at Keeneland to a five-length win in the Alysheba Stakes at Lone Star. In the Riva Ridge, Touch Tone tracked a fast pace but couldn't make up any ground in the stretch, losing by three lengths to Put It Back.

The Iowa Derby would be Touch Tone's first start around two turns. Werner, who has a string at Arlington for the first time this year, is passing on the July 28 Round Table here because the race is at nine furlongs. Both the Dwyer and the Iowa Derby are contested at 1 1/16 miles.

Who's on first?

Minor Wisdom, the defending champion in the race, wasn't entered in Saturday's Cardinal Handicap, but not because his owner and trainer decided to pass. Roberto's Minister was mistakenly entered by a jockey's agent in place of Minor Wisdom, and when Scherer became aware of the error it was too late to be corrected.

A similar situation arose in the same race last year. Trainer Doug Matthews entered Just Like Prime in the Cardinal, but the horse's name was somehow removed from the list of entries before the race was officially drawn.

Scherer, however, was not especially distraught, since he was uncertain whether Minor Wisdom actually was going to start in the Cardinal. The horse hasn't run since January, and Scherer was to have decided Friday if he would scratch Minor Wisdom.

"Really, it saved me the problem of trying to decide today whether he was going to run," Scherer said.