08/25/2006 12:00AM

Off his last, Arbuckle Bandit looks like a steal

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When the Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day was coming up with a short field, the names of several out-of-the-mainstream 3-year-old turf horses were tossed around as possible last-minute additions to the race. Among them was Arbuckle Bandit, who, in the first turf race of his career, had finished third by a half-length in the Grade 3 Arlington Classic.

But Arbuckle Bandit's human connections took a Secretariat pass, a move that in hindsight seems prudent.

"We were considering the Secretariat, but the race came up too tough," said trainer Mike Stidham. "I mean, the winner of that race ran faster than they did in the Arlington Million."

Indeed, Showing Up turned in one of the more impressive Secretariat performances of recent years, and Arbuckle Bandit has found a much cozier spot in Arlington's featured ninth race on Sunday. He was one of only seven horses entered in a second-level allowance race carded for 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Arbuckle Bandit, who was purchased privately this spring by Chicago-based owner Barry Golden, does face older horses for the first time, a sometimes-significant factor. But on paper he looks best. There were no superstars in the entry-level allowance race Arbuckle Bandit won here July 27, but the horse broke from a wide post, raced fairly close to a solid pace, and had plenty left to finish off his foes in the stretch. The move Sunday out to 1 1/8 miles should not hinder Arbuckle Bandit, who raced three times at Remington Park earlier in his career, and was claimed last winter for $20,000.

Others to consider in Sunday's ninth race are Rotary, who raced against the turf-course profile when he finished third on July 26; Bahri and Grill, ninth in a Woodbine stakes after winning an entry-level allowance here in July; and even the Illinois-bred Class Ack, who also was hurt by an apparent turf-course bias when he finished fifth in his most recent start.

Dreaming of Anna possible for the Lassie

Here is a potentially major addition to the Arlington-Washington Lassie here Sept. 10 - Dreaming of Anna, who has won the first two starts of her career while hardly drawing a deep breath.

Plans for Dreaming of Anna have not yet been cemented, and her connections, owner Frank Calabrese, trainer Wayne Catalano, and racing manager Steve Leving, also have contemplated a trip to Woodbine for the Natalma Stakes on turf. But Calabrese, who will have Dreaming of Anna's full brother Lewis Michael in the St. Louis Derby on Saturday night at Fairmount Park, said Friday that Dreaming of Anna would "probably run in the Lassie."

"If she's as good as everyone says she is, we'll try to go to the Breeders' Cup," Calabrese said.

The 2-year-old Dreaming of Anna debuted here May 19 and won a 4 1/2-furlong dirt race by four lengths, her time of 51.80 seconds extremely fast. In her second start, she set a Colonial turf-course record for 5 1/2 furlongs while winning the $60,000 Tippett Stakes by more than seven lengths, and on Friday, Dreaming of Anna turned in a powerhouse dirt work here, going seven furlongs in the mud in 1:24.80.

"I was going to wait till tomorrow, but they're calling for more rain," Catalano. "I talked to three jocks and they all said the track was good, so I said go ahead and work her. She did everything beautiful, smooth as silk."

Vacare still targeting the Pucker Up

Vacare, who had to be scratched from the Hatoof Stakes last week because of a cough, is scheduled to breeze Saturday morning and still has a decent chance to make the Sept. 9 Pucker Up Stakes, trainer Chris Block said.

Vacare, who won easily in her first two starts, both turf routes, coughed in the days leading up to the Hatoof, but Block said she never ran a temperature, and is doing fine now.

On Sunday, Block plans to breeze Fort Prado, who might make his next start in the Sept. 30 Carey Memorial at Hawthorne. Block said there's a slight chance that Fort Prado, third in the Sea O'Erin Stakes, would ship to Remington Park for the Sept. 4 DeBartolo Memorial.