10/06/2001 12:00AM

Humble Clerk wins Arlington Matron


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Call him the Midwest's Bobby Frankel. While Frankel has reeled off Grade 1 wins from coast to coast this year, trainer Niall O'Callaghan, more quietly and on a smaller scale, has won a slew of graded stakes in the Midwest with horses like Guided Tour, Keats, Tijiyr, and Generous Rosi. Saturday, it was Humble Clerk, who won the Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Matron by a length over Maltese Superb.

It was Humble Clerk's first graded stakes win since owner Gary Tanaka bought her in the spring of 2000. Humble Clerk won the Indiana Oaks late last year but had won only once in five starts this season.

The mare appeared to be back on her game here Sept. 9, when she just missed in an overnight handicap at the Matron's nine-furlong distance, and under an expert ride from Larry Melancon she gamely wore down Maltese Superb on Saturday, while the 3-year-old Lakenheath made a solid stretch run to finish third. Humble Clerk, a 4-year-old Arkansas-bred, paid $11.40 and was timed in 1:51.53 for the 1 1/8 miles.

The graded stakes winner Asher set a soft pace, but clearly has tailed off since hitting her best form late this summer. Maltese Superb, who tracked the pace, passed Asher on the far turn, but soon was engaged by Humble Clerk, who made a sustained run over the final half-mile and finally wore down Maltese Superb in the final sixteenth.

Tepid favorite Lady Melesi finished third, followed by Instinct, Taste the Passion, and Asher.