09/07/2006 11:00PM

Lassie loaded with talent


CHICAGO - The Arlington-Washington Futurity and Arlington-Washington Lassie are among the oldest stakes at Arlington Park. Bill Thayer, the longtime Arlington executive, still keeps in his desk drawer an original program from 1965 Futurity Day: Buckpasser's name is circled.

Times change, though, and in recent years, the two best 2-year-old races of the Arlington season slid - the winners were decent, not memorable. But this year's models, especially the Lassie, seem like a blast from the past. Both races, one-turn miles, attracted large fields that seem loaded with runners.

"That's a nice race," said trainer Wayne Catalano, who saddles the unbeaten filly Dreaming of Anna in the Grade 3, $150,000 Lassie. "There's some good ones in there. It's like Arlington's own little Breeders' Cup."

Dreaming of Anna, a full sister to the talented 3-year-old colt Lewis Michael, has done nothing wrong in two races. She won an early-season 4 1/2-furlong maiden by four lengths, and was timed in a sizzling 51.80 seconds; and in her second start, Dreaming of Anna won the $60,000 Tippett Stakes by more than seven lengths, setting a Colonial Downs turf course record for 5 1/2 furlongs.

"Two-year-old fillies don't set track records," said Steve Leving, owner Frank Calabrese's on-again, off-again racing manager, the day after the Tippett.

Dreaming of Anna's people were between the Lassie and the Natalma Stakes - a grass race at Woodbine - this weekend, but opted to stay home, and Catalano points out that Dreaming of Anna loves the Arlington dirt. Last Sunday, she posted one of the fastest Arlington works of the summer, five furlongs in 58.40 seconds with a six-furlong gallop-out in 1:10.80, according to Catalano.

But Dreaming of Anna, for all her speed and talent, is unlikely to be favored in the 10-horse field, a role that should fall to Change Up, who lost her debut at Churchill late last spring by a nose, but then won a Churchill maiden by six lengths and the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies by 4 1/2. Second-place at Mountaineer went to Appealing Zophie, who last Monday breezed to a win in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga.

"She's not a big horse, but she's very well put together, and she doesn't make many mistakes," said Steve Flint, who trains Change Up for Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein. "She's not going to go out and beat herself."

Change Up, who has post 8, drew slightly better than Dreaming of Anna, who breaks from post 6. Neither figures to be far from what looks like a hot pace. Sea the Joy, who won the local Lassie Prep, also should be in the lead group, and there is a chance of a pace meltdown in the Lassie. Lenaro, a fast-closing second to Sea the Joy last out, is the sort of late-runner who might benefit.

"She did finish well, and the longer distances shouldn't hurt her," said trainer Bob Holthus.

Futurity: Officer Rocket one to beat

Lenaro has shown talent, but Holthus's big horse Sunday is Officer Rocket in the Grade 3, $200,000 Futurity, which goes as race 9, two races after the Lassie. Officer Rocket finished third July 16 at Churchill in his career debut, but won an Arlington maiden race two weeks later by more than five lengths, and captured the $41,000 Spectacular Bid here Aug. 20 by 13 lengths while ridden lightly to the wire.

"He's a nice horse, and he's doing great," said Holthus. "I think they've got to beat him."

Eleven were entered in the Futurity, (Holthus's other entrant, Morada Key, will start in an earlier allowance race), and Street Sense or Shermanesque might have the best chance to upset Officer Rocket. Shermanesque didn't run his best race finishing a distant third Aug. 17 in the Saratoga Special, but six weeks earlier was second to Circular Quay - one of the division leaders - at Churchill. And though Street Sense has only a maiden win to his credit, he may be as talented as any Futurity starter. Second to the highly regarded Unbridled Express in his Churchill debut, Street Sense won a good maiden race here Aug. 19; the track was fast that day, and Street Sense made the most of it, getting 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.80.

"He's a nice colt, but he's got a lot to learn, and you never want to get too smart on 2-year-olds," trainer Carl Nafzger said. "This race should sort a lot of things out."

* Sunday's card, among the best of this meet, concludes with the Flawlessly Stakes, which drew a field of 10 superior to the race's $40,000 purse. The favorite is Chic Dancer, who won the Grade 3 Modesty in her last start, but a potential bomb is Atlantic Frost, who was buried behind horses during the entire stretch run of that race.