08/18/2003 11:00PM

Star of Atticus comes back


CHICAGO - The trainer Bobby Barnett clearly remembers the sequence of events. Star of Atticus raced on a Saturday and went under the knife on a Monday. That was almost nine months ago. Thursday at Arlington, for the first time since November, Barnett will put racing tack on Star of Atticus, who makes her comeback in a first-level allowance sprint here.

Star of Atticus underwent routine surgery to remove bone chips in her ankle, a condition that curtailed a promising 2-year-old season that began here at Arlington. Star of Atticus lost her career debut but beat Bird Town by four lengths in a Keeneland maiden race, a victory that gained significance when Bird Town won the Kentucky Oaks in May. To back up the maiden win, Star of Atticus was second in the $111,000 Pocahontas Stakes before losing her form in the Grade 2 Golden Rod.

That was the Saturday race. Two days later, Star of Atticus had the arthroscopic surgery that has become so common for racehorses, and Barnett believes she has left the ankle problem far behind.

"She's come back really well," Barnett said. "Gene Tucker got her ready down in Aiken, South Carolina, and did a great job. She's had some good works - a really good one on Sunday - and the ankle hasn't bothered her at all."

The "really good" work was a five-furlong move in 59 seconds at Churchill, very fast by Barnett's standards, and a sign that Star of Atticus will fire in her comeback race.

"I feel like she was a real nice filly last year," Barnett said. "She's grown up now, too. She's a full hand taller, and she's carrying more weight than before."

Leading rider Rene Douglas rides Star of Atticus.

Another noteworthy comebacker surfaces in this 6 1/2-furlong race: Blues in Seattle, who also tasted stakes racing as a 2-year-old. Star of Atticus was a fall miler, but Blues in Seattle was an early-season sprinter, winning at first asking in early June before finishing fourth to Awesome Humor in the Grade 3 Debutante. Blues in Seattle lost all four of her starts during her winter-spring form cycle, but she, too, has been working fast at Churchill.

- Later in the card, third-level allowance horses (or $62,500 claimers) hook up in the eighth race. Dove Creek and Ft. Mann, both entered for the claiming price, are the likely favorites, while the 3-year-old Illinois-bred Cashmere Miss comes off a sharp win in a statebred overnight handicap.