09/15/2003 12:00AM

Rain doesn't deter 'Cactus'


CHICAGO - Cactus Ridge, the leading contender for the Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 27, had his major work for the race last Saturday, breezing six furlongs in 1:15.40. And when it was over, trainer Bret Calhoun was simply glad to have the work behind him.

Trying to dodge the wettest weather of the weekend, Cactus Ridge worked over a sealed track that was harder than Calhoun preferred. With one final breeze scheduled for next weekend, and with rain forecast Saturday night and Sunday, Calhoun had little choice but to go on with the breeze on a wet, misty morning.

"We were hoping they would open up the track, but that didn't happen," he said. "It was sealed, and it probably was a little harder than we wanted, so we were a little bit cautious."

With jockey Randy Meier aboard, Cactus Ridge came out just after 8 a.m. and was among the first horses to work after a renovation break. Quickly into the breeze, Cactus Ridge went a half in 50 seconds and five furlongs in 1:02.40 as Meier sat virtually motionless in the stretch.

"The game plan was to get him around there as safe as possible," Calhoun said. "I think we got out of it what we wanted."

Calhoun, who trains Cactus Ridge for the country music singer Toby Keith, said Eddie Martin will ride the colt in the Arlington-Washington Futurity. Cactus Ridge has easily won his first three starts, and Calhoun hopes to use his next start as a springboard to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Aud awaits Keeneland invitation

Aud, who won the Pucker Up here Saturday, could make her next start in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, but first must be invited to the race.

"We're going to kind of wait and see what happens with her," Aud's trainer, Tony Reinstedler, said. "I think we'd have to take a look at the Queen Elizabeth if we were invited, but I'm guessing that it'd probably take a couple defections for her to get in."

Reinstedler already has a horse for the Queen Elizabeth, Sand Springs, who is doing fine despite a poor race last weekend at Belmont. Sand Springs already has been invited to the Queen Elizabeth, and is likely to run, but Reinstedler wouldn't have a problem starting both fillies since Sand Springs is a front-runner and Aud a closer.

Aud came from far back to win the Grade 3 Pucker Up going away in what probably was the best race of her career. "I really, really like where she's at right now," Reinstedler said.

Martinez to ride at Hawthorne

Seth Martinez is shifting his tack to Chicago and plans to ride regularly at Hawthorne's fall-winter meet. Martinez ranked third at the recently concluded Canterbury Park meet with 48 wins.

Martinez, 24, has contemplated moving to Chicago before, and rode several races here last summer. Now, he is ready to make the jump.

"We're going to give it a try," Martinez said last week. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Martinez said he also has considered retirement. At age 16, Martinez tacked 108 pounds, but he rides at a considerably higher weight now, and said he has grown tired of fighting his weight.

"I've gained about a pound a year, and it's pure muscle mass, so you can't take it off," he said. "I decided to give it a year and see how we do."

Ack Ack on Twilight Road's agenda

Twilight Road looked strong winning an allowance race here last Wednesday and probably will defend his title next month in the Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill. Downs.

Making his first start since July, Twilight Road ran a mile in 1:36.78, a good time considering the slow early pace in his race. Jockey Rene Douglas "still had his whip down at the eighth pole, so he won pretty easily," said trainer Paul McGee.

McGee said Twilight Road may run in a high-end allowance race during the Keeneland meet before going onto the Ack Ack.