08/31/2003 11:00PM

Prairie Slam finally on track

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - This leggy chestnut colt has been going back and forth from trainer Wayne Catalano's stable to the racetrack each morning for much of the last year. The key word here is morning.

Prairie Slam has done plenty of training, but has raced just twice. Back from a seven-month layoff, he scored a solid-looking maiden win here Aug. 16, and for the first time in his career, Prairie Slam will have a chance to build on his accomplishment.

Prairie Slam is one of seven horses entered in Arlington's eighth race Wednesday, only a first-level allowance, but the nominal feature on a nine-race card.

By Grand Slam, Prairie Slam fetched a bid of $180,000 at a 2-year-old sale during the summer of 2002, but he did not make his career debut until January. At Fair Grounds, Prairie Slam trained like a horse with talent, and looked good in a schooling race there, but he hooked a tough field in his debut and finished fourth to the promising Political Risk.

But that was it until this summer. Prairie Slam trained on for a short time after his debut, but his connections stopped on him when he was not doing well physically.

"He's a runner, but he's needed some time between his starts, some time to grow into his body," Catalano said.

Prairie Slam returned to the races on Arlington Million Day, and made short work of seven rivals in a six-furlong maiden race. The field was not weak, and Prairie Slam looked good going about his business.

"For his first race back, I'd say that was a good run," said Catalano. "I'd say he can run back to it. He got in a nice, solid half-mile breeze."

Prairie Slam may not have to improve much to notch his second straight win. The horses entered against him are somewhat light for a first-level allowance, owing in great part to the 3-year-old restriction in the race's conditions.

The biggest challenge could come from Saint Sabates, who comes out of a near miss in a conditioned $25,000 claiming race here. Saint Sabates, claimed out of that race by trainer Mike Reavis, turns back from a mile to a sprint and should be running late.