08/27/2006 11:00PM

Megawattie cuts back after mile loss


CHICAGO - There are only seven horses in the featured eighth race on Wednesday at Arlington Park, and since four of the seven are trained by either Hugh Robertson or Michelle Boyce, one might think that the winner would come from one of those barns. But that would be failing to take into account the Dini factor. Trainer Mike Dini, pretty much out of nowhere, has won 14 races with only 50 starters at this meet, and in Megawattie, Dini and owner John Orecchio have the horse to beat in the Wednesday feature.

The race is carded at about five furlongs on turf for third-level allowance horses or $62,500 claimers - just the class level and distance at which won on July 27. Megawattie, a 4-year-old bred by Orecchio, seemed permanently stuck in Illinois-bred entry-level allowance races until late last year, but having cleared that condition in November, she won a statebred second-level allowance May 6 at Arlington in her first start of this year, and got even better when Dini switched her to turf sprints. In mid-June, Megawattie finished second in a race at Wednesday's class level, then was a close fourth behind Nicole's Dream in an overnight stakes race before scoring her win on July 27.

But Megawattie's most recent race was a puzzler: Stretched out to a mile on turf Aug. 18, she failed even to show her customary early speed, finishing a distant fifth. That gives hope to others in the race, though neither one of Boyce's horses is ideally suited to the spot. Arsen Annie, unraced since last October, does fine on grass, but needs more ground than the five furlongs she gets Wednesday. Sprint racing suits Dutchie, who makes her first start since April, but she missed the board the one time she tried turf, albeit in a route race.

"Her feet are not at all what I'd consider favorable for turf," said Boyce. "She's got a very contracted foot, but it's an opportunity to get a race under her."

Sparkling Sabia won for a $50,000 tag on dirt Aug. 17, and was second to Megawattie in that July 27 turf sprint; Robertson would prefer it if Wednesday's race got rained onto the main track.

"I don't really think she's quite as good on turf as on dirt," he said. "The last time she kind of surprised me."

Piano Tunner, Robertson's other horse, was a fast-closing fifth in her lone grass race.