05/29/2007 12:00AM

Rain gave boost to Hanshin Cup winner


CHICAGO - What more casual participants in racing learned this weekend at Arlington Park, Wayne Catalano already knew: Significant rainfall can mean a significant change to the nature of Polytrack.

Rain through Friday night and into Saturday left standing water in and around Arlington, and the Catalano-trained, Frank Calabrese-owned Lewis Michael felt the affects of it Saturday afternoon.

Arlington's Polytrack, which has been relatively tough on early speed during the early portion of existence, began helping some front-running horses along, and no race provided a stronger example than Saturday's Hanshin Cup. Lewis Michael was favored to win it, but gave futile chase to Spotsgone, who ran along on the lead while setting a pace that, a day earlier, probably would have proved killing. Instead, Spotsgone, after getting his half-mile in 45.61 seconds, barely slowed in the stretch, and posted a 2 1/4-length victory over Lewis Michael, getting his mile in 1:33.72. He paid $165 to win.

"I knew that from Keeneland it got like that," Catalano said Monday morning. "When it gets packed down like that, speed is pretty good. You know, in the morning when it's cool, they usually work fast over it. When it warms up, it slows down."

What it meant was Lewis Michael, for the fourth time in his career, had run into a foe who turned in a superlative performance to beat him in a graded stakes race. Spotsgone had never run anything like he did in the Hanshin, earning jockey Earlie Fires his all-time-leading 103rd Arlington stakes win. Trainer Jinks Fires had been trying to get Spotsgone into an allowance race at Churchill or Arlington, and landed in the Hanshin only because races at both tracks failed to fill. And using Beyer Speed Figures as a rough guide, Spotsgone got a 107 for the Hanshin win, 18 points higher than his top figure during an eight-race span following a summer-to-fall layoff, and nine points higher than his previous career-best.

Spotsgone, however, had never raced on an all-weather track, and Jinks Fires noted that a more forgiving racing surface had reason to contribute to sudden improvement from a horse with some talent. "He's got those thin [hoof] walls and everything," Fires said. "We've had to put the glue-on shoes on him."

Catalano said there were no immediate plans for Lewis Michael, who remains stabled at Arlington. Spotsgone went back to Kentucky, and neither does Fires know where his horse is headed. "We're going to look around and see what there is around the country for him," he said.

Corrupt sidelined

Corrupt, who had been considered a possible starter last Monday's Awad Handicap, and who won the Mardi Gras Stakes this past winter at Fair Grounds, is out of training for 90 days after suffering an unspecified physical setback.

Trainer Chris Block said Corrupt would get a three-month break at a farm, after which "we'll see whether he can go back in training or still needs some more time."

Tom Archdeacon won the Awad.

Rethinking Connections

Trainer Mike Dini scratched Connections from Saturday's Hanshin because of tactical concerns, and lingering worries about the horse's ability to negotiate a one-mile distance in high-class company.

Dini said he was considering Connections for the June 2 Aristides at Churchill.

* Sandburr, whose connections passed on the Hanshin, has been penciled into the $50,000 Jim Rasmussen Memorial Stakes this Saturday at Prairie Meadows, trainer Mike Stidham said.

* Arlington basically is feature-less for the first time this season, with a second-level Illinois-bred allowance race, carded as race 4 Thursday, the highest-class fare on a 10-race card.