07/24/2008 11:00PM

Lewis Michael returns in Sea o'Erin

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When Lewis Michael gets beat 25 lengths, something clearly is amiss. And so it was that a decidedly subpar performance in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last October at Monmouth Park revealed the horse had suffered an injury to his right front ankle.

"He got a little stoved up on that sloppy strip, got a little ankle on him," trainer Wayne Catalano said. "They fixed him up a little bit, I think, and I got him back at Keeneland in April."

Nine months since he finished a distant fifth in the BC Dirt Mile, Lewis Michael will make his long-awaited return to action Saturday in the $150,000 Sea o'Erin Handicap at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. Despite the lengthy layoff and a deep cast of challengers, Lewis Michael still figures as the horse to beat in the Sea o'Erin, a one-mile turf race.

Rene Douglas will be aboard Lewis Michael for breeder-owner Frank Calabrese. A 5-year-old in his final season of racing - he will stand at stud next year at Three Chimneys - Lewis Michael has earned nearly $625,000 from 20 starts. Catalano said he is shooting for a Breeders' Cup race on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita on Oct. 25 for Lewis Michael, whose recent work pattern suggests he stands an excellent chance to win in his Saturday comeback.

"I expect him to run very good," Catalano said. "He's been training very well, and his workouts have been super."

Besides Lewis Michael, who will start from post 2 in a field of 11 older horses, the Sea o'Erin lineup includes stakes winners Coragil Cat, Pickapocket, Steve's Double, and Therecomesatiger, as well as such dangerous opponents as Karelian, Demarcation, and Yate's Black Cat.

The purse for the Sea o'Erin includes $50,000 in Breeders' Cup bonuses.

The Sea o'Erin is carded as the 10th of 11 races on a Saturday program that begins at 1 p.m. Central. Also on tap are the $50,000 Taylor's Special (race 8) and two allowances (races 1 and 11).

The Taylor's Special, a five-furlong turf race, brings out Mr. Nightlinger in search of a fourth straight victory. Trainer Bret Calhoun has said he hopes to make the new Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in October with Mr. Nightlinger, a 4-year-old Indian Charlie colt whose modest win streak includes back-to-back Grade 3 turf sprints in Kentucky this spring.