04/20/2006 11:00PM

Kid Grindstone to represent Wexler in Wexler


CHICAGO - On opening weekend at Arlington there is a new stakes race on the calendar, named the Avers Wexler Illinois Owners Stakes, and it appears that Mr. Wexler himself has a leading candidate for it.

The Wexler-owned Kid Grindstone scored an upset win in the $100,000 Fifth Season Breeders' Cup on April 12 at Oaklawn Park, and his next start will come at Arlington in the race named after his owner, a longtime figure on the Chicago racing scene.

"Well, since they wrote a stakes in his honor, that's definitely where we're going to point," said trainer Mike Campbell.

Kid Grindstone has some history. Twice during the winter of 2005, while still a maiden, he was claimed, first by Randy Oberlander, then by Campbell and Wexler, who took the horse out of an easy win for $40,000 last March. Kid Grindstone won three times on turf last year, but now appears to be at least as good on the main track, using his rousing Fifth Season victory as a guide. The major factor in his improvement, Campbell said, has little to do with racing surface, and more to do with running style.

"He had a tendency to go to the lead, and he was unmanageable, and he would hang," Campbell said. "We took him back finally, and he came on so strong, and that's what we've wanted to do with him."

Campbell is the father of Jesse Campbell, one of the leading riders in Chicago, and it was Jesse Campbell who flew to Oaklawn - Hawthorne was dark the day of the Fifth Season - to ride Kid Grindstone to victory. Campbell came from last, and had to zigzag through traffic in the stretch to find the wire.

"It was a supernatural ride; he was in trouble the whole time," Mike Campbell said. "When you win a $100,000 graded stake, that's one that's going to stand out."

Air Academy pointed to Illinois Day

Trainer Brian Williamson could have taken a shot with blossoming Air Academy in Saturday's National Jockey Club Handicap. Instead, he held Air Academy out of that Grade 3 stakes, and will start the horse next Saturday in the High Alexander Stakes, one of six Illinois-bred stakes on the National Jockey Club program.

Air Academy has won two allowance races this meet, the last of them of the high-end variety, and his form has surged far forward this season. But rather than throw him to the wolves, Williamson has fit Air Academy into a substantial set of plans for Illinois Day. Besides Air Academy, Williamson also has Lampoon, Tally Up, and Capistrano as major players in their respective stakes divisions.

Meanwhile, the promising 3-year-old filly My Chickadee appears to be in good shape despite bleeding slightly when she finished fourth in the Meafara Stakes, her first start after a winning career debut here. Working with Lasix, My Chickadee turned in a bullet breeze this week, and Williamson plans to send her to Churchill Downs for an entry-level sprint allowance.

Catalano, Lewis Michael at Arlington

Wayne Catalano has shifted his entire string across Chicagoland preparing for his annual assault on Arlington Park. His Hawthorne barn stands empty, but the Arlington stable is full.

Among the horses there is Lewis Michael, a troubled fourth last out in the Illinois Derby, and a horse that would be going to the Kentucky Derby if his connections get him into the race. But Lewis Michael, who turned in a strong five-furlong breeze Tuesday at Hawthorne, is nowhere near making a 20-horse field circumscribed by graded-stakes earnings.

"I don't guess we're going to get in there, so it's back to the drawing board," Catalano said. "I don't know what we'll do with him yet."

Turf feature on tap

Sunday's featured third race is for high-end allowance horses or $100,000 claimers at a mile on turf, and it drew a field of seven fillies and mares representing five trainers. Williamson has two for the race, Tuffted and Hug Me Hug Me, while Christine Janks sends out the formidable pair of Chic Dancer and Ms. Lydonia.

Also entered were Ghostly Gate and two good Illinois-bred grass horses, Lighthouse Lil and Beau Happy.