10/08/2003 11:00PM

A hot Janeian vs. a cold San Dare


CHICAGO - Last winter, San Dare was one of the best turf mares at Gulfstream Park. Now it is autumn, and San Dare is coming to Hawthorne, where trainer Rick Hiles will find out if a break from racing has breathed life back into her career.

But even if she returns sharp, San Dare is no lock to win the $150,000 Indian Maid Handicap here Saturday. Standing squarely in her path is the now horse, Janeian.

San Dare and Janeian join five others, most notably Delmonico Cat, in the Indian Maid, a 1 1/16-mile race over Hawthorne's grass course.

San Dare, a regular on the Kentucky circuit, makes her first trip to Chicago. Two seasons ago, San Dare was a claimer, but she began a steady ascendance last year and developed into a graded stakes horse, winning the Honey Fox and The Very One handicaps during the Gulfstream meet. But what comes up must go down, and San Dare's form gradually eroded. Second in the Grade 2 Orchid in early March, San Dare finished third, fifth, and fourth in races she would have won at her best, and after a trip to Delaware, she was given a break.

While San Dare tailed off, Janeian came around. Janeian, a New Zealand-bred, has won 3 of 4 starts for owner Greg England since Bret Calhoun took over her training. After two wins at Lone Star, she was third over yielding ground in the $75,000 Estrapade Handicap at Arlington, but was back to her best there Sept. 7 with a powerful allowance win.

"I've really liked that filly for a long time," Calhoun said. "I'm pretty optimistic about her chances right now. I think she could be a real, real nice filly if we could get her to settle and relax a little more."

That's where jockey Eddie Martin comes into play. Martin has ridden Janeian in her last three races, and he knows the importance of getting her covered up behind horses and relaxed. Martin isn't riding regularly at Hawthorne, but he was scheduled to work Calhoun's star 2-year-old, Cactus Ridge, on Saturday morning, and gets to ride Janeian in the afternoon.

Delmonico Cat won the Flawlessly Stakes at Arlington in her last start, parlaying a perfect trip into a neck win. She finished a nose in front of Janeian in the Estrapade and has a legitimate win chance again Saturday.

Curious Conundrum, Delicatessa, Glorious Grace, and Lady of the Future complete the field.