07/10/2001 11:00PM

A pot of Illinois gold at finish line


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - This is a wonderful time to have an Illinois-bred at Arlington. With increased Summer Festival purses plus a hefty Illinois owners' award, the two Illinois-breds in Friday's featured race, a $100,000 optional-claiming sprint, are shooting for a purse of roughly $70,000.

And they have more than blanks to fire. Classic Appeal will be among the favorites in the six-furlong race, the ninth of 10 on a 3 p.m. program, and Magic Doe, who has earned nearly $500,000 in his career, also has a realistic chance.

Jim Eckrosh trains Magic Doe for owner William Cortesi. Eckrosh, who operates a small stable in Chicago, turned 92 last week. A win by Magic Doe, who is 0 for 7 this year, would be a fine present.

But it is Classic Appeal who appears the stronger of the pair right now, having just finished second in the White Oak Handicap on the Prairie State Festival card. Classic Appeal, a 4-year-old owned by Asiel Stable and trained by Richard Hazelton, has done very well in Illinois-bred company but has also proven capable of competing in open races. Last year, he won a fourth-level allowance race here and finished second in the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland.

Classic Appeal runs late and will be trying to catch Kings Command and Beware Avalanche, who is the possible favorite. Kings Command backed out of a very fast pace when finishing seventh here in an opening-day overnight handicap, but there is much less speed in this spot and the 4-year-old is a threat for trainer Bob Holthus.

Beware Avalanche merits consideration on his connections alone, owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Wayne Catalano. Calabrese won the owner's title here last year, and Catalano, his private trainer now, won the trainer's title. With nine wins in only 23 starts, they are hot again this year. Beware Avalanche, a $100,000 claim this winter, finished fourth in his last start, beaten less than a length in a Churchill turf-sprint allowance race. Two winters ago, Beware Avalanche set a Fair Grounds course record at 5 1/2 half furlongs on turf, but recently he has shown a preference for dirt. Two races ago, he was a winner of a Hawthorne allowance race.

Rene Douglas, the second-leading jockey here, rides Beware Avalanche for the first time. Followers of Chicago racing will note the absence of Mark Guidry, whom Catalano and Calabrese had begun using regularly earlier in the meet. But that relationship, Catalano said Wednesday, has come to an end.