09/28/2003 11:00PM

Lassie runners make BC plans

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CHICAGO - Zosima, who won the Arlington-Washington Lassie on Saturday, was headed to California on Monday. Whether she will race there Oct. 25 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies remains to be seen, but Everyday Angel, who finished second in the Lassie, is being pointed to the race, her trainer, Pat Byrne, said from Kentucky.

Zosima exited the Lassie in good condition, according to Dave Duggan, assistant trainer to Eoin Harty. Zosima spent the summer with Duggan at Arlington, and she turned in by far the best performance of a four-start career Saturday, rallying from a couple of lengths off the pace to win by a length. Her time of 1:36.02 for a mile on dirt set a stakes record, though Arlington's main track was playing fast.

"I don't know whether she'll start in the Breeders' Cup or not," Duggan said Monday morning. "It's not carved in stone."

Zosima is owned by Darley Stud, and Duggan said Harty had not yet spoken with Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum about the filly's plans.

"She took the next step on Saturday, and she did it very professionally," Duggan said, "but whether she's ready to take on those California horses, I don't know."

Byrne, however, thinks Everyday Angel is ready. Everyday Angel stepped on her left front foot leaving the starting gate and was nursing the minor injury on Monday, Byrne said. But she is expected to return to training within a few days, and Byrne plans to press on.

"I was pleased, all things considered," Byrne said. "I think she deserves a chance in the big picture of things. We got this mile race under her belt, and to me, she did nothing wrong. If I didn't think she had the talent, I wouldn't keep marching on."

'Cactus' to train at Hawthorne

The Arlington-Washington Futurity winner, Cactus Ridge, also has left Arlington, but he remains in Chicago, stabled at Hawthorne Race Course. That's where Cactus Ridge will have nearly all his preparation for a run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"My first thought is to stay over there to train and go in as late as I can," said trainer Bret Calhoun.

Calhoun said Cactus Ridge will have two breezes before the Breeders' Cup. Eddie Martin will retain the mount.

Cactus Ridge stumbled leaving the gate on Saturday but quickly recovered and led the rest of the way, winning by three lengths over an unaccomplished field. The performance, Cactus Ridge's fourth win in four starts, wasn't as brilliant as his victories over the summer, but he set a stakes record of 1:35.44 for a mile.

"Over all, he came out of it all right," Calhoun said. "I was worried he'd have grabbed a quarter or something, but he's fine."

Bucksbrighteststar improves

Sandwiched between the Futurity and the Lassie was a promising grass win by Bucksbrighteststar, the 4-year-old full brother to champion turf horse Buck's Boy. Bucksbrighteststar beat only statebred allowance horses, but he showed grit in a strong stretch run and has steadily improved all summer.

"I was walking on air," said trainer Noel Hickey. "It was a great relief to me." The Irish Acres Farm of Hickey's wife, Margaret, bred and owns Bucksbrighteststar.

Like Buck's Boy, Bucksbright-eststar does his best work racing on the lead. He also is blessed with Buck's Boy's intelligence.

"He's way too smart for his own good, and his brother was absolutely that way, too," Hickey said.

Bucksbrighteststar might make his next start at the Keeneland meet, the trainer said.

Time is now for Crusader Jo

Whether it is the cool air, lesser competition, or a change in scenery, this is Crusader Jo's time of year. Struggling to win a statebred turf race last summer at Arlington, he moved to Hawthorne, finished third in open company, and impressively knocked out his first allowance condition.

Things have come full circle. Once again, Crusader Jo is coming off a frustrating Arlington meet, but Wednesday, he returns to Hawthorne's grass course, site of his last win.

Crusader Jo was one of 11 horses entered in Wednesday's ninth and final race, the nominal feature on a card lacking an open allowance. But this 1 1/16-mile grass race - like so many Hawthorne heats - features a deep, bettable field.

"He had some bad luck over at Arlington," said Crusader Jo's trainer, Joe Kasperski. "His rider said he would have won his last race if he would have changed leads in the stretch."

Instead, Crusader Jo finished third, beaten less than a length by The Ironworker, whom he faces again Wednesday. The Iron-worker, a need-the-lead runner, opened up a big lead and was all out to hold off Claseybeat and Crusader Jo.

The Ironworker can win again, but some sort of pace pressure may soften him up for a closer like Crusader Jo.