09/06/2001 12:00AM

Proving time for Ammodio


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It's true that a good horse can surface almost anywhere, but even in the most obscure locales, someone is always watching. That all-encompassing vigilance of the bloodstock business has landed the 2-year-old colt Ammodio at Arlington Park for the $75,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes on Saturday, where he will confound handicappers trying to read his form: One start, a blowout maiden win at Finger Lakes, the tiny oval in upstate New York.

That race, a 12 3/4-length score Aug. 3, was enough to elicit a $150,000 purchase by owners Darrell and Evelyn Yates, in whose colors Ammodio will start in the Spectacular Bid, a six-furlong prep for the Grade 2 Arlington-Washington Futurity.

"With 2-year-olds like this, how many times have you been fooled?" asked trainer Tom Amoss, who helped engineer Ammodio's acquisition. "They can turn out to be one-dimensional, or the field they beat wasn't good." But those are the young purchases that don't pan out. In the past, Amoss has had success buying lightly raced horses - like Fly Cry and Hot Wells - and he applies a set of guidelines to help reduce the risk factor in the investment.

To begin with, Amoss looks for fast horses at small tracks. "I don't have the money to buy the big winner at a major track," he said. But he's willing to take a shot on a horse like Ammodio, a New York-bred son of the good sire Polish Numbers, if his business partners who make speed figures for the Len Ragozin "Sheets" operation give a horse a high rating. Said Amoss, "His fig was good and his breeding was good. That's what I was looking at."

Ammodio has worked three times since coming into Amoss's barn at Churchill Downs. "The first work was kind of a get-acquainted work," Amoss said. "Last time, I put him against another horse. He responded well."

His brief career out of the spotlight at Finger Lakes is behind him, and either Ammodio can run or he can't. That's what the Yates's and Amoss have paid to find out Saturday.

Werner leans to Super Derby

The 3-year-old colt Touch Tone will make his next start in either the Grade 2 Ohio Derby at Thistledown (1 1/8 miles) or the Grade 1 Super Derby (1 1/4 miles) at Louisiana Downs, though trainer Ronnie Werner said he is more inclined to target the latter race.

"I'm very much leaning to the Super Derby. That would get him back on a faster track, which fits him better," Werner said.

Touch Tone raced on Labor Day, finishing third in the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park, where, said Werner, the track is sandier and deeper than Touch Tone prefers. That race was only the sixth in the star-crossed Touch Tone's career. Tom Durant's colt moved from a maiden win this spring at Keeneland straight into stakes company. Before Monday, Touch Tone was third in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge, won the Iowa Derby in his two-turn debut, and ran second to Point Given in the Grade 1 Haskell.

"Macho Uno and the filly," Unbridled Elaine, first and second in the Pennsylvania Derby, "just ran really big races," Werner said. "But I was disappointed. I feel like he can do better than that. I want him to be able to win races even on a track he doesn't like."

Werner said Touch Tone, who is stabled at Belmont Park, came out his race in great shape, and Werner himself took the colt to the track for a routine gallop on Wednesday.

Jilbab, Argentina win for Godolphin

Godolphin won its second maiden race in five days, but only its third of this meet, when Jilbab took Wednesday's fourth race by three-quarters of a length. On Friday, Argentina, who recently shipped in from trainer Eoin Harty's Del Mar barn, won her debut here.

Jilbab, an A.P. Indy filly, has been Godolphin's most impressive Arlington-based 2-year-old this summer, though it took her three tries to win her maiden. An increase in distance, from sprints to a mile in Wednesday's race, certainly helped her, and Jilbab remains under consideration for the Arlington-Washington Lassie here.

"We'll give her a couple days and see how she comes out of it," Harty said.

Harty also said he was considering sending other California-based horses to Arlington before all of Godolphin's American 2-year-olds head to Dubai at the end of October.

* Arlington patrons can watch and wager on the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday. Bets taken here will be commingled with the ontrack pool at Leopardstown Racecourse in Ireland. Post time for the race, which features a rematch between the two top horses in Europe, Galileo and Fantastic Light, is 10:05 a.m. Central.

* A pair of steeplechase races scheduled for this weekend, including the Grade 3 St. James Cup, were scrapped for lack of entries.