06/05/2003 11:00PM

Herculated back in turf run

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CHICAGO - Some racehorses reveal their gifts from the first moment a rider gets on, working fast and training with panache.

Before Herculated started racing, his people didn't know what to expect.

"We felt like he definitely wanted to go long, but we weren't convinced he would win right off the bat," said trainer Mike Stidham. "He was a little deceiving. He never impressed us as one that looked like a special horse. Then, when he ran, he painted a different picture."

The picture so far is masterful - two starts and two convincing wins. The first came on dirt, the next on turf, and on both surfaces Herculated has shown the powerful acceleration that a good horse possesses.

Herculated's legs haven't failed him yet, but his immune system let him down this spring. While training at Keeneland in April, Herculated caught a bug that sent him to the sidelines. Stidham said he took his time bringing Herculated back, but he's ready now, and Herculated returns to action Sunday at Arlington in the $45,000 Awad, an overnight one-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds.

The horses Herculated faces are good ones for an overnight race, and why not? Arlington's Mid-America Triple for 3-year-old turf horses commences June 28 with the Arlington Classic and winds up with the $500,000 Grade 1 Secretariat in August. Nobody's saying Herculated is there yet, but a good performance Sunday will put him on his way.

"If he can take that step up, that's the plan," said Stidham, who trains Herculated for Oak Crest Farm.

Herculated has the tactical speed to be placed within range of any reasonable pace. Frank Lovato, aboard in both wins, has let Herculated move up coming off the far turn in both his wins and is unlikely to tinker with success.

There are a host of capable contenders, including Mr Mississippi and Scottago, one-two here in a productive maiden turf race last fall. Scottago won an allowance over the winter at Fair Grounds and one here May 23. Mr Mississippi won an allowance at Gulfstream.

Also worth noting is Bluesnclues, who won his maiden on turf last fall for owner Louie Roussel and was victorious on dirt here May 25 in his 3-year-old debut.

High-percentage 8-year-old

A horse who begins his career with a win in three starts isn't rare. But try finding one who can maintain that ratio for his whole career.

Besttobeabachelor is an 8-year-old now, and when he runs in Sunday's second race, he'll be trying for his 23rd win in just 66 starts. Last year alone Besttobeabachelor won six times in nine races.

"He's just an old grizzly bear," said Bret Calhoun, who at the moment has the honor of training Besttobeabachelor.

Calhoun is one of many. Besttobeabachelor has a big-time pedigree and began his career at Gulfstream Park in 1998 with trainer Mark Hennig. But he couldn't make the major leagues and wound up in West Virginia, where he spent much of the next two years. Besttobeabachelor has changed barns 10 times, but it doesn't matter who he is running for - he still runs.

"He's jut a tough horse that knows how to get the job done," said Calhoun, who claimed Besttobeabachelor last summer. "I'd heard before I claimed him that he was a crotchety old horse, but he's really not mean. He gets his defense mechanisms up, but if you feed him about 22 peppermints a day, he's good to go."

In his last start, on May 16 at Lone Star, Besttobeabachelor's rider put him in tight quarters and the horse clipped heels. Besttobeabachelor finished that start minus his jockey. He has bounced back from worse episodes before, and in a short field of $25,000 claimers, Besttobeabachelor looks like one of the main contenders - as usual.

Decision pending on Mystery Giver's next

Mystery Giver worked a solid five furlongs in 1:01.80 here Monday and is sitting on a race, but which race trainer Chris Block isn't certain. The options are the Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup here June 15 or the Cardinal Handicap against statebreds the next weekend.

"I'll make a decision after he works next week," Block said Wednesday. "He worked good. I think he's back where he needs to be now."

Mystery Giver impressively won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup over the winter at Fair Grounds.