06/18/2006 11:00PM

Lewis Michael set for $1M turf race


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - For Lewis Michael and his entourage, the theme of the weekend was, On to Richmond - or thereabouts. It is actually about 26 miles from Richmond to New Kent, Va., site of Colonial Downs and Saturday's $1 million Colonial Turf Cup, and that is where Lewis Michael is heading after a successful workout on Saturday at Arlington.

A 3-year-old, Lewis Michael just missed winning the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont in his most recent start, and that must qualify him as a horse of importance in Chicago, for Arlington, which typically restricts turf works to Wednesday, opened the grass course Saturday morning for Lewis Michael's five-furlong breeze. Cones were set up far out into the course, so Lewis Michael's final time of about 1:06.80 basically is irrelevant.

"The dogs were so far out you couldn't really tell anything, but he came home in 12 and 1, so that was good," said trainer Wayne Catalano.

More importantly, Lewis Michael had no trouble with his soft palate, which he displaced in a June 2 workout, an apparently minor issue that was surgically repaired in Kentucky a couple of days after the work. Lewis Michael missed little training, and Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese are pleased enough with his condition that Lewis Michael will travel from Arlington on Tuesday for a shot at a huge payday.

"I've never been there, but he looks good, and we're going," said Calabrese.

Mark Guidry, who rode Lewis Michael in the Peter Pan, has a return call this weekend. While the Peter Pan is a dirt race, Lewis Michael has more experience with grass racing, and his connections believe he is at least as good on turf as he is on dirt.

Fort Prado continues strong works

There were seemingly a hundred Illinois-breds that posted workouts over the weekend and into Monday as they went through final preparations before Saturday's Prairie State Festival and its six Illinois-bred stakes races. Fort Prado, one of the best grass horses in the Midwest, Illinois-bred or otherwise, turned in another solid dirt breeze Sunday, going five furlongs in 1:00.60. It was his fourth straight work without a hitch since he returned to training after suffering a foot bruise. Later in the day, Fort Prado was assigned 124 pounds for the Black Tie Affair Handicap; his connections were concerned about being overloaded with weight, but will accept that impost and run, trainer Chris Block said.

"That's fine, that's okay," said Block. "He only missed a few days of training. I think he's ready to go."

Monday, it was Original Spin's turn, and hers was the kind of work that makes jaws drop. Original Spin's only start this season was a disaster, a last-place finish in the Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park, and she was out of training for a couple of months, but her workouts since coming back to Arlington and trainer Tony Mitchell's barn have been sensational, Monday's perhaps most of all. Working from the gate with jockey Jesse Campbell aboard, Original Spin was in hand as she breezed through a half-mile in 45.20 seconds. She was going so fast that clockers wound up giving her an official time of 59.40 seconds for five furlongs.

"Jesse said he just had a grip on her all the way around," said Mitchell. "I've never had a horse work that fast before."

Original Spin has done nothing to suggest to Mitchell that she shouldn't be entered in Saturday's Purple Violet Stakes. If she comes out of the work well - and Mitchell said Original Spin wasn't even blowing afterward - her name will be in the entry box Wednesday. Should Mitchell decide to wait, there are races for Original Spin the next weekend at Prairie Meadows, and she also has been nominated to the Prioress at Belmont.

Without a Doubt tops feature

The Father's Day crowd here of 18,517 - highest so far this meet - was down more than 6,000 fans from 2005, and the weather threatened rain all afternoon. But the track felt alive in a way seen here only once or twice so far this meet, and the celebratory atmosphere even spilled over into the box reserved for Mr. Arlington, Richard Duchossois. The maiden Go Dancing, trained by Mickey Goldfine, carried the Duchossois silks to victory midway through the card - and those same colors could wind up in the Arlington winner's circle after Wednesday's featured eighth race.

The horse here is Without a Doubt, the trainer Chris Block, but whereas Go Dancing was one of several on-the-edge contenders in the race he won, Without a Doubt looks like the horse to beat in a 7 1/2-furlong third-level allowance race open to $50,000 claimers. Without a Doubt runs for the claiming tag, and he made short work of $40,000 foes here May 17, winning in the mud by almost eight lengths. Now 7, Without a Doubt never quite reached stakes class, but he has been a good horse, finishing in the exacta in 18 of his 27 career starts.

Smith named new commissioner

Longtime Illinois Racing Board commissioner Ralph Martinez, whose six-year term on the IRB recently expired, has been replaced by Dr. Paul B. Smith, an equine veterinarian who resides in Plainfield, Ill. Smith was appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, while Martinez, a former IRB chairman and powerful member of the board, is a Republican.

Smith served for 33 years as the IRB-appointed veterinarian for harness racing, retiring from that position in 2002. His six-year term begins July 1.