06/17/2002 11:00PM

Here we go again, 'Misty'

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CHICAGO - As quickly as these racehorses impress you, they depress you. And the ones that seem to show the most talent are the ones that seem most susceptible to injury.

Last spring, trainer Tony Granitz thought he might have something in Misty Gina, a filly he trains for Wheeler Farm. She was a bang-up second in her career debut at Sportsman's in April 2001, then won her maiden at Hawthorne by more than two lengths over Curious Conundrum, who went on to win a stakes last summer.

Then, just as quickly as she had shown up on the Chicago scene, Misty Gina was gone, sent to the sidelines by a fracture in her knee. It's the kind of injury that requires a lot of rest - and a lot of patience. Thursday, the waiting ends for Granitz and his owner when Misty Gina returns to the races at Arlington.

She starts in race eight, a first-level sprint allowance that passes as a feature on an uninspiring program. Besides an absence of high-end quality, the card lacks numbers: There are two six-horse and two seven-horse fields, as entries continue at a slow pace here.

Misty Gina will beat her six rivals if she's ready to roll, but that's hardly a given for a filly returning from a 13-month layoff.

"She worked out of the gate the other day, and she worked sharp," Granitz said. "She seems really healthy, but I haven't worked her that hard. She might need a tightener."

If Misty Gina is short, Native Trinket or Hula Medlei is the likeliest winner. Native Trinket appeared to want no part of a mile when she made her first start beyond a sprint here June 7. At six furlongs, the distance of this race, Native Trinket won her maiden and finished second and third behind talented fillies at Sportsman's and Hawthorne. Hula Medlei was a sharp maiden winner May 7 at Hawthorne, but bled in her most recent start and finished fifth.

She races with Lasix for the first time Thursday.

Working horse blues

There was plenty of action here during Monday training, with Slider heading the work tab. Slider, who has come strongly to hand this year, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20, almost two seconds quicker than the next-fastest work at the distance. Trainer Dick Lundy said Slider will start next either in a seven-furlong overnight handicap here July 30, or in the Cornhusker Handicap July 6 at Prairie Meadows.

Two candidates for Saturday's Cardinal Handicap worked on turf. Fan Club's Mister breezed five furlongs in 1:03.60, and Mystery Giver went a half-mile in 49.60.

The Cardinal headlines the Prairie State Festival, six stakes for Illinois-breds.

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