05/17/2010 11:00PM

Revolving trainers don't matter to Calabrese


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Three weeks into the Arlington Park racing season, Frank Calabrese has reminded followers of the circuit that his operation will win races during the meet, regardless of which trainer - or combination of trainers - is saddling his stock.

Two years ago, Wayne Catalano still was at the helm, and during May of that year, the Calabrese barn went kind of crazy. From May 1-18 in 2008, Calabrese won 14 races at Arlington. That win total is an outlier in Calabrese's recent history, however: During the same period in 2006, Calabrese won four races, while his total in 2007 was six wins.

Last year, with Nick Canani and Danny Miller training, Calabrese had four wins at this point in the season, but this year, using Canani and young Ron Faucheux, Team Calabrese is off to another hot start, with 10 wins from 18 starters. Faucheux has saddled two winners, Canani the other eight, and Canani trails only Catalano (10 wins) in the Arlington trainer standings.

"God, yes," Calabrese said, when asked if he was pleased with his start to the summer. "This is a great start."

While the trainers have changed, one constant in the organization has been racing manager Steve Leving, who once again has helped Calabrese cobble together a hodge-podge assemblage of useful runners.

Take Bella Moneta. This filly hadn't started since last June 12 at Colonial Downs when Canani saddled her for the fifth race on Saturday. Racing in a $25,000 non-winners-of-two claimer, Bella Moneta crisply zipped to a five-length victory, running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.14, just .11 of a second off the track record. Bella Moneta wasn't claimed, and surely will be put in a realistic spot when she returns to the entry box.

Leving said it was Florida horseman Red Curtin who steered Calabrese toward Bella Moneta. Curtin also helped Calabrese acquire Tahitian Warrior, the 3-year-old who was purchased for big bucks by Godolphin after a fast debut over the winter at Gulfstream Park.

"We've got several horses that came from Red," Leving said.

During the Gulfstream meet, Calabrese stayed active at the claiming box, taking "about twice as many as we had claimed from us," Leving said.

Calabrese said he has 61 horses in active training at the moment. That group includes not only claimers, but some 2-year-olds for whom the operation has hopes, such as a Storm Cat colt (scheduled to arrive Wednesday in Canani's stable) that Calabrese bought for $100,000 at the Timonium sale on Monday in Maryland.

Faucheux, whose two-horse stable should expand soon, Leving said, began training for Calabrese over the winter at Fair Grounds, where he saddled a handful of starters. And with the departure of Miller from the operation late this past winter, Canani, who was hired somewhat out of the blue by Calabrese late last spring, is getting the bulk of the work.

"I've always had an extremely good rapport with Canani," Leving said. "It's a seamless interface, because everybody has their job."

Calabrese said of Canani, "I love him. He's very quiet. He's very much into his business and into what he has to do. He's an excellent trainer."

Frank Calabrese is winning races. Frank Calabrese is happy.

Matron too soon for Block's filly

The way Askbut I Won'ttell looked winning her synthetic-track debut last Saturday in the female division of the Illinois Owners Stakes, trainer Chris Block laments the fact that the May 29 Arlington Matron, a Grade 3 at nine furlongs on Polytrack, isn't coming up a little later in the meet.

"I wish the Matron was little further out than two weeks," said Block. "I think after watching her run the other day, I think she's worthy of a race like that."

But wheeling back for the Matron seems unlikely, and that means the next start for Askbut I Won'ttell remains up in the air. The improving 4-year-old Askbut I Won'ttell also has shown plenty of ability on turf, and should have plenty of options once ready to run back.

Block's even-money favorite in the male division of the Owners Stakes, Giant Oak, fared less well, clunking home sixth of seven after an eventful trip. Block said Giant Oak "came back fine," but that no spot has been chosen for his next start.

The winner of Giant Oak's race, Proceed Bee, will be considered for the Arlington Handicap on July 17, trainer Scott Becker said. Proceed Bee did most of his racing on turf last year, but ran his synthetic-track record to three wins from four starts, and owns victories on grass, dirt, and Polytrack.

Beware of Snapped in turf feature

The Canani-trained Ducduc and the Catalano-trained D'Wildcard could vie for favoritism in Thursday's featured ninth race, an entry-level allowance carded for one mile on grass. But Snapped may present a more value-oriented option.

Snapped won his maiden over the Arlington course last summer, and had been off for almost one year when he made the lead at the stretch call before tiring to fourth in a May 1 Arlington race at this class level.