05/08/2003 11:00PM

If Book the Devil breaks cleanly, look out


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Gene Cilio liked - make that loved - Book the Devil a month ago in the $98,000 Violet Stakes at Hawthorne. And then the race began.

Book the Devil, on the lead in the first two races of her career, stumbled out of the gate, spotting the rest of the field close to 10 lengths. And that was that.

"Your heart drops when you see that," said Cilio, who trains Book the Devil for Crowns Way Farms and Steve Holland. "It wasn't the way it was supposed to be. She's usually a good gate horse."

A distant eighth in the Violet, Book the Devil should be a much greater factor Sunday at Arlington in the $40,000 Native Pet Stakes. With a sharp break, Book the Devil can control the pace throughout the seven-furlong Native Pet, and if she gets an easy lead, her six Illinois-bred rivals will have their work cut out to catch her.

Book the Devil practiced at Fair Grounds this winter before traveling north to Hawthorne, where she won her career debut by more than 12 lengths and an allowance race by more than eight. She was a 6-5 favorite in the Violet, and Cilio remains confident in her ability.

"She's breezed real well since then. I think she'll have no problem going seven-eighths or a mile," Cilio said.

For a $40,000 stakes, though, the Native Pet has come up tough, and the toughest customer is Gumbo Love, who easily won the Violet Stakes. The apple of trainer Clayton Pierce's eye, Gumbo Love was bred and is owned by Jay Collier, and Gumbo Love can run. Like Book the Devil, Gumbo Love romped in her career debut against statebreds, but then switched to open company and finished second in an allowance race.

That effort set Gumbo Love up for a big race in the Violet, and after stalking a moderate pace, she went on to a 3 1/2-length victory.

Moon Shine Time seems overmatched, She's Fantastic and Cashmere Miss have outside shots, and Julie's Prize, a two-time stakes winner herself, is another viable contender.

Bourque in enviable position

Curt Bourque was pressed for time early Friday afternoon. The hot box in the Arlington jockey's room was calling, and Bourque had important business at 3 p.m.

Right now, Bourque is riding first call for trainer Wayne Catalano, and since Catalano has won the Arlington training title two of the last three years, that is a pretty good gig to have.

Indeed, Catalano put Bourque on a horse named Arctic Sand in the first race of the Arlington meet, and despite breaking from post 12 in a two-turn race with a short run to the first turn, Bourque and Arctic Sand gave Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese their first winner here this season.

"Thanks to Wayne and Frank Calabrese, things are going good," Bourque said.

Bourque only needed to ride at 122 pounds on Arctic Sand, but it was the pressure to shed weight that slowed Bourque's business this winter at Fair Grounds and led to his move to Chicago.

"My business started to gear down there," Bourque said. "My weight was bothering me, and my work habits had slowed down, too."

It was a discouraging time for Bourque, who had worked hard to come back from substance abuse problems and had ridden with success in Louisiana and Texas last year. But Chicago has revitalized him. Bourque was a solid fourth with 38 wins at the Hawthorne meet, and with Catalano in his corner, things are going to get hotter.