09/05/2007 11:00PM

Lassie, Matron both wide open


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Silver Maiden won the 1997 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes. Ten years later, Dreaming of Liz, a 2-year-old daughter of El Prado and Silver Maiden, will try to follow in her mother's footsteps.

Dreaming of Liz is unproven, but apparently talented, with a seven-length maiden win on Aug. 10 in her second start. That's not a lot on which to hang one's hopes, but the Lassie hasn't attracted a field that should scare away anyone with a horse who has talent.

The most experienced filly among 11 entered in the Lassie is Wonderful Luck, who has won 2 of 5 starts, all for trainer Steve Asmussen, with both wins, notably, coming on synthetic surfaces. Wonderful Luck captured her debut in a short Keeneland sprint on Polytrack, and won the Cinderella Stakes over Hollywood's Cushion Track.

Wonderful Luck was second last out in the seven-furlong Ellis Park Debutante, and one wonders how far this filly wants to go - a question that looms over many of the horses in the one-mile Lassie.

"They come out of all those sprints, they go too fast early, and something comes from behind," said trainer Mike Stidham, who won this race three years ago with Culinary, and lost it by a whisker last year with Sutra.

Stidham's Lassie entry, Pretty Persuasion, will not be troubled by the distance, since she won a one-mile two-turn turf race in her only start.

"I loved her race," Stidham said. "She waited, sat behind horses, went through a hole that barely was there, and drew off."

While Pretty Persuasion bides her time somewhere off the pace, Dreaming of Liz figures to be on or near the lead after breaking from post 11. Dreaming of Liz made the front after stumbling at the start of her maiden win, and went an opening half-mile in about 45.20 seconds. Jockey E.T. Baird will have to ration her speed judiciously Saturday, but trainer Wayne Catalano has raved over Dreaming of Liz's morning works since her maiden score.

Also likely to attract the attention of bettors is Honest to Betsy, a close fourth last out in the Adirondack at Saratoga, who is partnered Saturday with leading rider Rene Douglas.

Matron: Round Heels takes a shot

The mid-week defection of Asi Siempre from the Arlington Matron turned the race on its head. Asi Siempre would have been an odds-on favorite; now, the Matron, a Grade 3 worth $150,000 run over 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack, has no defined favorite.

Coolwind may wind up being the public's choice, or she may not, but the horse with the best two-turn race on a synthetic racing surface is Round Heels, who wouldn't even have been in the Matron had Asi Siempre made the gate. Round Heels, owned by Dick Duchossois, also had the option of an Illinois owners stakes on turf next weekend.

"I'm pretty sure I'm running her," said trainer Chris Block. "Now that Asi Siempre is out, that's why I'm in there."

Round Heels has made 20 of her 21 starts on turf, but racing on Hollywood's Cushion Track last December, she finished second of 12 in the Grade 2 Bayakoa, beaten a neck by Foxysox, who had a strong 2006.

"I'm running in there for one reason - the race at Hollywood last fall," Block said. "I'm hoping that wasn't a fluke, and if she runs back to that race, she'll be competitive."

Coolwind exits an allowance race win over Polytrack, on which she has two victories, but the Matron's distance remains a potential stumbling block. Coolwind is not really bred to be at her best going nine furlongs, though she finished second last summer in the Arlington Oaks.

"I don't think there's much speed in the race," said her trainer, Greg Geier. "If she breaks good, she'll probably be on the lead. Hopefully we can slow it down, give her a breather, and we can go that far."

On Safari won a nine-furlong Polytrack allowance race here in her most recent start, though Coolwind beat her going a mile earlier in the meet. Ms. Lydonia is an Illinois-bred-stakes winner, and also exits a Polytrack allowance victory. Solo Survivor has a pair of victories this meet, while Eyes on Eddy has been off form in her two most recent starts.