06/27/2001 12:00AM

Just three horses, but one's a jewel


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Trainer Rickey Harris's stable, which housed 50 horses at its peak several years ago, has shrunk to three.

Fortunately, one of them is Fan Club's Mister, a 3-year-old turf stakes winner who will race Saturday at Arlington in the $200,000 Arlington Classic.

But Harris has been through worse than training a short string of runners. A car accident in Florida three years ago nearly killed her.

Harris was driving to work at Hialeah when she crashed, breaking, she said, most of the right side of her body. In traction for two months and in the hospital for three, Harris began her comeback by training horses out of her car at Hawthorne. Now she is ambulatory again and, she said Wednesday, feeling good.

"When they put you back together again you're not the same person that you were," Harris said. "But I'm doing well."

As is Fan Club's Mister. A half-brother to the stakes winner Exciting Fanfare bred and owned by Pat Miessler and Cliff Raber, Fan Club's Mister enters the Arlington Classic off his first stakes win, a neck tally over Rahy's Secret in the Canterbury Breeders' Cup Derby.

"That race was enough to give you a heart attack," Harris said. "Rahy's Secret looked him in the eye three times, but Fan Club kept going away from him."

Fan Club's Mister has won both of his races since switching to turf this spring, a move Harris made after the colt finished fifth in the Spiral Stakes and seventh in the Illinois Derby, with bad racing luck dogging him in both those starts. Earlier in the year, Fan Club's Mister won his maiden at Gulfstream and ran well twice in dirt allowance company there.

"He's always been a really classy horse," said Harris, a Chicagoan who has trained Thoroughbreds for 20 years after leaving behind a successful hunter-jumper operation. "I don't know how far he wants to go on turf or dirt, so a mile and an eighth Saturday will tell us a lot. I know he's a good miler, and he can get a mile and a sixteenth."

Fan Club's Mister's cause may be helped by a lack of true pace in the Classic. Jockey Randy Meier, a master at riding speed horses, may be able to put the front-running colt on a clear lead.

Fan Club's Mister will face Rahy's Secret again in the Classic, with graded stakes winner Strategic Partner and California shipper Cherokee Kim also confirmed for the race. Several other horses remain on the fence for the race, which is the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple.

Asmussen still learning about Hesiode

Trainer Steve Asmussen, in town for the first time since this meet began, said Hesiode would start Sunday in the Grade 3 $200,000 Stars and Stripes Handicap here, a 12-furlong turf race.

Owner Gary Tanaka bought the French-bred Hesiode last fall before the colt finished ninth in the Grade 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, a race that came on the heels of a pair of third-place finishes in French Group 2 races. Hesiode made his U.S. debut June 17 at Churchill Downs, finishing a non-threatening fifth in an allowance race that, at 1 1/16 miles, was far too short for the colt.

"He needed to run. He's a lazy work horse and he doesn't get much out of his training on dirt," said Asmussen, who added that he still had little other than Hesiode's French form and reports from his previous connections to gauge this horse's ability.

Asmussen said he will spend much of the summer in Chicago, though his huge string of horses in training, which numbered 152 as of Wednesday, would be divided among tracks across the country. This summer, Asmussen will run a stable at Saratoga for the first time. Assistant trainer Scott Blasi will oversee the Saratoga-based horses.

Asmussen has about 42 horses at Arlington and the string included some promising unraced 2-year-olds. "They aren't there yet," he said. "There's no point in running some of these horses in 4 1/2-furlong races."

Last year, Fifty Stars, the Louisiana Derby winner, got his start at Arlington, as did Compendium, who was an impressive winner of the Northern Dancer at Churchill in his last start. Compendium, Asmussen said, is headed to the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. Fifty Stars, recovering from surgery to remove a bone chip, will resume training this summer, but won't be stabled at a racetrack until Asmussen goes to Fair Grounds in the fall.

Allowance on turf is featured race

Cool Dancer and Uptown Clown head a field of nine Illinois-breds entered in Friday's featured eighth race, a second-level turf allowance at about 1 1/16 miles.

Cool Dancer, from the Wayne Catalano barn, ran well winning at Hawthorne last month, while Uptown Clown has boosted his form since switching to turf racing and will appreciate cutting back in distance from nine furlongs.

In the sixth race, Gingerboy, who dominated starter-allowance races on this circuit last spring and summer, makes his first dirt start of the season trainer Pat Cuccurullo.

* Jockey Jeremy Beasley, who has won two races this meet, has switched agents, from Penny Fitch-Heyes to Ronnie Ebanks. Ebanks also handles the book of leading rider Mark Guidry.