10/07/2003 11:00PM

Last push for Cactus Ridge


STICKNEY, Ill. - Quietly, Cactus Ridge, Hawthorne's only Breeders' Cup hopeful, is readying for a final push to the BC Juvenile. Cactus Ridge is scheduled for a workout here Saturday, his first since a convincing win Sept. 27 in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity.

Since the Futurity win, his fourth in four starts, Cactus Ridge has done nothing but jog and gallop over the Hawthorne surface. His trainer, Bret Calhoun, initially was concerned with Cactus Ridge's move here from Arlington. The Hawthorne surface has a much different composition than Arlington's, and during the first week of racing, the track was especially slow and tiring.

But Cactus Ridge has managed to adapt without running into problems.

"He's been okay," Calhoun said. "He's pretty much kept to schedule, and I've been happy with that. He's sitting on schedule to work Saturday and the following Saturday."

Cactus Ridge will fly to Santa Anita on Oct. 22, according to Calhoun. Eddie Martin, who will ride him in the Oct. 25 Juvenile, will be in to work Cactus Ridge on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Calhoun's promising 3-year-old Commander's Affair breezed four furlongs in 49.60 seconds here Wednesday. Third to Dynever and Most Feared in the Lone Star Derby, Commander's Affair hasn't raced since he finished 11th on yielding turf in the May 26 USA Stakes at Lone Star.

"He had a stifle injury, nothing real serious," Calhoun said. "He'd already had a long campaign, and he needed some time anyway, so we gave it to him."

Calhoun said it was unlikely Commander's Affair would start at the Hawthorne meet.

Arsen Annie may beat expectations again

First, trainer Michelle Boyce wasn't sure she could get Arsen Annie in good enough physical condition to race at all. When Arsen Annie made the races, Boyce figured she'd be lucky to hang on as a claiming horse. Six months later, Arsen Annie, after a solid eight-start campaign, has a legitimate shot to win Hawthorne's featured ninth race on Friday.

Arsen Annie is one of eight fillies and mares entered in a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for third-level allowance horses or $35,000 claimers. After winning for the first time in a $20,000 maiden claimer early in the Arlington meet, Arsen Annie beat conditioned claiming horses, then ran through two statebred allowance conditions in her next three starts. In her last race, an open race at this class level on Sept. 13 at Arlington, Arsen Annie finished second of six.

"The last time, she didn't win, but I thought she ran a magnificent race," Boyce said.

Arsen Annie badly fractured a shin in the late summer of 2002. Boyce, who took over her training early this year, said, "Initially, I didn't think she'd last, or have the talent to go far. She's just continued to progress."

Arsen Annie, to be ridden by jockey Randy Meier, is part of a field that is fairly soft for the class level. Quest for Truth has won two of her last three starts, but beat little in a last-out allowance win at Arlington. So, too, with Jo Me the Money, who was a seven-length winner over 3-year-old $25,000 claimers in her last start.

Millonas cold at Arlington, hot at Hawthorne

Trainer Don Millonas entered the Hawthorne meet with only three wins from more than 60 starters. In the first week of racing here, Millonas sent out four of the six horses in his stable: Two of them won, the other two finished second.

"I can't believe it," Millonas said. "The gods have been smiling on me."

Millonas did what many Chicago trainers do late in the summer - freshen up horses for the Hawthorne meet.

"I kind of eased up on them the last few weeks over there," he said. "It can get pretty tough over at Arlington."

With such a short string, there's a limit to how hot Millonas can get. But he has two bullets left to fire. Watch out for them.