04/20/2007 12:00AM

Lewis Michael on brink of success


STICKNEY, Ill. - The Wayne Catalano stable has heated up at Hawthorne - and points beyond. Catalano has won with 11 of 29 starters here, and last Saturday had Lewis Michael turn in a strong performance in the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. But, as has often been the case, Lewis Michael encountered a horse who ran out of his skin, in this case Silent Name, who probably turned in the most impressive Polytrack performance of the Keeneland meet.

"Lewis just ran the best race of his life," said Steve Leving, stable manager for owner Frank Calabrese.

In his top efforts over the last year, Lewis Michael has hooked Sunriver in last spring's Peter Pan, Lawyer Ron in the St. Louis Derby last summer, and an incredibly sharp Midnight Lute last fall in the Perryville, also at Keeneland. But it's possible that in his next start, Lewis Michael could be the big horse. That would be the case if Lewis Michael winds up in the Russell Reineman Illinois Owners Stakes on May 5 at Arlington. Leving said Friday that Lewis Michael would be nominated to that spot, though other options are being explored.

"He'll run on grass or Polytrack next time, but other than that, our options are open," said Leving.

Lewis Michael may be transferred soon to Arlington, but the other horse Catalano has at Keeneland, Lewis Michael's sister Dreaming of Anna, will stay in Kentucky through her next race. That should come at Churchill on May 4, Kentucky Oaks Day, and though Dreaming of Anna is tentatively being pointed to the Edgewood Stakes, a grass race, a start in the Oaks itself hasn't completely been ruled out.

Meanwhile, Catalano and Calabrese's last four starters at Hawthorne were claimed, and the stable is in the process of reloading for its annual Arlington assault. This year, however, that will take place on Polytrack for the first time.

"The acquisition of horses is always vital for [Calabrese's] stable, and for a long time, our eye has been to Polytrack," said Leving.

Who Let the Cat In has good shot

Who Let the Cat In didn't disgrace himself facing older horses March 24 in the $139,000 Duncan Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds, a race won by a sharp Bobby Frankel-trained front-runner named Saint Anddan. And if Who Let the Cat In can run back to his close eighth-place performance in that race, he'll have a good chance to win the seventh-race feature on Sunday at Hawthorne.

Who Let the Cat In was one of nine 3-year-olds entered in a six-furlong sprint race, and he is only one of several contenders. Piratesonthelake just finished third to the good Illinois-bred Caruse in the Lost Code Stakes here April 7, and won an entry-level allowance race two starts ago by two lengths. Giant Hit hasn't raced since last summer at Arlington, but had turned in three strong efforts before his long layoff began.

But Who Let the Cat In might be able to take those two. After a dismal career debut last summer, he won his maiden Sept. 16 at Hawthorne for trainer Spanky Broussard, and has been on an upward trajectory ever since. He turned in three solid tries at Fair Grounds before narrowly losing a stakes and narrowly winning an allowance race at Delta Downs. Broussard adds blinkers for Sunday's race, and Who Let the Cat In has had two works since shipping north for his spring campaign.

Owners key in Bettis success

Trainer Charlie Bettis has 12 horses stabled at Hawthorne right now. He also has eight wins at the meet.

Bettis's short string has compiled a total record of 8-5-5 in 25 starts this spring, ranking 10th among Hawthorne trainers. It's the best meet in memory for the stable, but Janelle Bettis, Charlie Bettis' wife and assistant, said the barn did little different this winter than in past years.

"The big thing is our owners are letting them run the horses where they belong," Janelle Bettis said.

Empty Holster, a one-time $5,000 claimer, has turned into a tiger in Illinois-bred allowance races. And Silver Legacy, a fairly promising 3-year-old, has a blowout maiden win and a close finish in an entry-level allowance this meet. Whether Bettis - an assistant to trainer Ernie Poulos during the years of star handicapper Black Tie Affair - can continue the run when racing shifts to Arlington is an open question. But with so much success already, the small stable has some margin for error over the next couple of months.

McCoy fights health condition

Owner-trainer Jim McCoy has begun running his horses in Chicago under the name of former assistant Scott Mullins, but McCoy, 68, said he hasn't retired from training.

"I've had had some real trouble with circulation in my legs, and I've been having treatments for the last year," McCoy said. "I think my next little deal is May 14, and when that's done, hopefully I can come back."

But McCoy, who lives in Kansas City, said he planned on shifting much of his operation this summer to The Woodlands. "It's my intention to pull back to there," McCoy said.