08/29/2006 12:00AM

Second out for 'Classic Aussie'


CHICAGO - The trainer Murray Johnson, asked recently about the chances of a debuting filly at Arlington, voiced disbelief.

"Me, with a first-time starter?" Johnson said.

Cozys Promise, the horse in question, did show some speed in her debut, but she faded and missed the board. Back for her second start last Friday, Cozys Promise rated, rallied - and paid $23 to win. Johnson, who came up with horses in his native Australia and attended a prestigious Irish academy for horsemanship, does not rush his stock - just the opposite - and the durability of his stable star, Perfect Drift, is testament to that.

All of which pertains to the 4-year-old Illinois-bred . A Classic Aussie took a break between late May and early August, and in his comeback race here Aug. 10 finished an even fourth of six, but Johnson, as with Cozys Promise, may not have pushed A Classic Aussie. The comeback race, like Cozys Promise's debut, might have been part of a bigger picture, and A Classic Aussie could be ready for his best in Arlington's eighth race Thursday, a second-level, one-mile allowance for Illinois-breds.

There are only seven in the race - the whole Thursday card is on the light side - and though A Classic Aussie breaks from the rail, a potentially tough spot, he appears to have an excellent chance to beat his main rivals, Princeton Hills, Carts Maybeoughta, and Highest Grade, and notch his third win in 13 starts.

Princeton Hills came to hand well in his last four starts for trainer Leo Gabriel, and after a maiden win two starts back he was ignored by bettors last time out in his first race against other winners. At odds of 9-1, Princeton Hills won by a length, showing he has the stamina for nine-furlong, two-turn races, but he scored his maiden win at Thursday's one-turn mile trip, and has a decent shot at this third straight win.

Matron coming up a bit light

There are only a handful of confirmed runners for Saturday's Arlington Matron Handicap, and a race that often has produced Breeders' Cup Distaff hopefuls does not appear to be of that caliber this season. While Arlington still hopes to land a couple of other shippers, as of Tuesday only Take a Check, from the Maryland barn of Dickie Small, was considered a solid out-of-town candidate for the Matron. In fact, the driving force behind the 2006 Matron is Christine Janks, who trains four of the 13 nominees and could start as many as three.