06/11/2003 11:00PM

Raging Fever: Is she vulnerable?


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Her presence is a boon for Arlington Park, but a drag for the other horses in the race. Raging Fever is casting a long shadow over the Grade 3, $175,000 Chicago Breeders' Cup on Saturday, the first graded stakes of the Arlington meet.

"Unless something happens with Raging Fever, we're probably not going to come run," Donnie Von Hemel said Thursday morning. Von Hemel entered See How She Runs in the seven-furlong Chicago BC, and See How She Runs would have been a legitimate contender. But Von Hemel wants no part of Raging Fever.

"We moved our filly up to Prairie Meadows earlier this week, and we could come on over, but it looks like we'll stay there."

With three Grade 1 wins, victories in half her 22 starts, and a bankroll of $1.4 million, Raging Fever is the most accomplished horse seen in Chicago since the Breeders' Cup blew into town last fall. A homebred owned by Edward Evans and trained by Mark Hennig, Raging Fever makes a rare venture away from the East Coast, where she has campaigned throughout a four-season career that has produced Grade 1 wins in the Ogden Phipps, the Frizette, and the Matron.

But note well those last two races are for 2-year-olds. Since her win in the Phipps a year ago, Raging Fever has started seven times and won only once, a victory this spring in the Grade 3 Bed o'Roses Handicap, where she waltzed to an easy early lead. In her last start, the May 17 Shuvee, Raging Fever broke in the air, stalked a fast pace, and faded in the stretch, losing by almost 20 lengths to Wild Spirit.

Saturday she breaks from post 1 under Aaron Gryder, and while Raging Fever has ample speed, she will feel pressure to her outside from For Rubies, Miss Lodi, and at some point perhaps Summer Mis. A short-priced horse running at a new track after a poor race can easily be perceived as a vulnerable favorite.

Waiting to pounce is Miss Lodi. Third last out in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, Miss Lodi has come up just short in her last two graded stakes tries, but had the unenviable task of chasing the Bobby Frankel-trained Sightseek both times.

"My feeling about Miss Lodi is that she's come back and run well this year, but she has to step up and prove she's still a graded-stakes-caliber horse," said trainer Tom Amoss.

The rest of the field is Cielo Girl, Abundantly Blessed, Oglala Sue and Ifyouprefersilver.