08/11/2003 11:00PM

Owsley tries to keep barn hot

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - For all of his vast experience in horse racing, it was not until last weekend, when Whitmore's Conn upset the Sword Dancer on Saturday at Saratoga, that Randy Schulhofer could officially be called a Grade 1-winning trainer.

Seven days after crashing that barrier, Schulhofer is seeking more of the same. He will be at Arlington Park Saturday to run Owsley in the $700,000 Beverly D., the Grade 1 race that once again figures as a key race in the filly-mare turf division.

"Hopefully we're getting on a roll," said Schulhofer.

As the son of Scotty Schulhofer, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1992, Schulhofer, 41, essentially grew up surrounded by Grade 1-caliber horses. He worked as a stablehand and assistant in his father's powerhouse stable for some 20 years before taking over a string of about 30 horses in late 2001 upon his father's retirement.

Now that Whitmore's Conn has elevated him into the ranks of Grade 1 winners, the younger Schulhofer is turning to Owsley to sustain the stable's momentum. In her last race, the July 26 Modesty Handicap at Arlington, Owsley not only looked sharp in winning as the favorite, but she dispelled any notions that she might have had an aversion to the Arlington turf course. Last fall, in her only other start at Arlington, Owsley finished last of 12 starters in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

"She'd run hard all year," said Schulhofer. "Maybe that was against us. She came out of that and did very well. She got off to a later start this year because of weather and other circumstances, and it seems to be working out for us. It seems like she's coming into her best form, and maybe we can have her peak later in the fall."

Owsley, a 5-year-old mare by Harlan, is owned by her breeder, Arthur Hancock III. From 22 starts, she has won eight times, including several graded turf stakes, for earnings of $865,705. She will be facing some of the best fillies and mares in training in the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. If she passes this test Saturday, then Hancock and Schulhofer will begin looking to a return to the Breeders' Cup in October.

"It'd be wonderful to get to that point," said Schulhofer.

Owsley is one of seven or eight horses likely for the Beverly D. The probable favorite is another New York-based mare, Voodoo Dancer, winner of the Diana at Saratoga in her last start for trainer Christophe Clement. Rene Douglas will ride Owsley, and Corey Nakatani will be back aboard Voodoo Dancer.

The rest of the prospective lineup, with riders, is Dress to Thrill, Jose Santos; Dublino, Kent Desormeaux; Riskaverse, Pat Day; Bien Nicole, Don Pettinger; and Walkzerkoenigin, Andreas Suborics.

As of Tuesday, trainer Bobby Frankel still had three horses under consideration for the Beverly D., with Heat Haze deemed more likely by Arlington officials to ship in than Tates Creek or Megahertz.

A dozen in line for Secretariat

The $400,000 Secretariat Stakes invariably draws a large and competitive field, and this year is not an exception. Arlington officials were expecting at least 12 3-year-olds for the 1 1/4-mile race when entries for all three Turf Festival races were drawn Wednesday.

France, a British-bred colt owned by Susan Magnier and trained by Aidan O'Brien, could be the slight favorite in his U.S. debut, but the colt has never raced beyond a mile.

The other two probable favorites won the previous legs of the Mid-America Triple, for which the Secretariat serves as the third and final leg. Lismore Knight, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the June 28 Arlington Classic, and Evolving Tactics, trained by Dermot Weld, won the July 20 American Derby.

By way of comparison, France was second and Evolving Tactics was ninth in the Irish 2000 Guineas in May in their only prior meeting.

The other probables for the Secretariat are Californian, Foufa's Warrior, Gato Gato Gato, Joe Bear, Just Wonder, Kicken Kris, King's Drama, Native Hawk, and Scottago.