03/18/2009 12:00AM

Hello Again faces easier, but still is in tough


STICKNEY, Ill. - When the 3-year-old filly Hello Again lines up in the starting gate for the featured sixth race at Hawthorne, she may look up and down the stalls, and breathe a sigh of relief: No Rachel Alexandra.

When Hello Again last raced, in the Feb. 15 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Rachel Alexandra, the electrifying 3-year-old filly, was among her rivals. Rachel won that day by eight lengths; Hello Again lost by 18. But Hello Again is a better filly than that, since three weeks earlier she had been victorious in the $50,000 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn, and the addition of Lasix for Friday's start suggests she bled in the Martha Washington.

But three stalls to Hello Again's outside on Friday is another formidable foe, Hawthorne-loving Sole of the City, who looks like the horse to beat in this third-level sprint allowance also open to $50,000 claimers.

Sole of the City is an 8-year-old, Hello Again won't even reach her real third birthday until sometime in May, but such is the state of affairs at Hawthorne that the track is writing races open to the largest possible swath of the horse population. Fields have been short the last several programs, and on Friday, four of the nine races went with only six entries. In all, just 62 horses were entered on the card, less than seven per race before scratches.

The feature has one of those short six-horse fields, and if Sole of the City runs this spring like she did last, she should make short work of the group, even if Hello Again rebounds. Trained by the seemingly ubiquitous Roger Brueggemann, Sole of the City is a six-time winner at Hawthorne, and last March she won two races here by a combined 12 lengths. Sole of the City worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds on March 6, a strong sign that she will do her part to raise the already high 43 percent win rate of favorites so far this meet.

Calabrese to use two trainers

Chicago's perennial leading owner, Frank Calabrese, is gearing up for another busy local season, even though Calabrese fired his primary trainer Wayne Catalano over the winter in Florida.

Steve Leving, Calabrese's racing manager, said Calabrese's horses in Chicago will be trained by Rick Slomkowski and Danny Miller, with Slomkowski handling the bulk of the stock. Slomkowski, who is Catalano's brother-in-law, trained some Calabrese horses last summer at Arlington, but parted ways with Calabrese in midsummer.

Right now, Calabrese has about 50 horses in training, Leving said, with 21 currently in Chicago at Hawthorne. Leving said that at the Arlington meet, which Calabrese has ruled for several years, Calabrese plans to have one full barn of Slomkowski-trained horses, and another dozen or so with Miller, a veteran of the local circuit.