05/26/2006 12:00AM

Statebreds prominent in open turf prep

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Benoit & Associates
If all goes well, Original Spin could return in the June 23 Purple Violet.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Reluctant Guest Stakes, Arlington's featured eighth race Sunday, is a $40,000 overnight stakes open to any female turf miler 3 years of age or older, but the Reluctant Guest has become the unofficial prep for the June 24 Lincoln Heritage Handicap, a race restricted to Illinois-bred grass horses.

"That race is the goal, same as for three or four others in there," said Greg Geier, who trains Reluctant Guest starter You Dancing Devil, one of the Illinois-breds.

Geier, however, reported that he would not be returning the winner's share of the Reluctant Guest purse should his filly earn it, which is to say one of the horses getting ready for the richer stakes race could also win the prep for it.

Eleven were entered in the Reluctant Guest, including some talented non-Illinois-breds such as . Beau Watch, Kentucky-based with trainer Eric Reed, has won 2 of 5 turf miles, including a stakes race at Euro-style Kentucky Downs two seasons ago, and with an inside post matched with her speed, Beau Watch might go to the lead Sunday under jockey Eddie Martin. Chic Dancer might be close to the front, too, but she has gradually learned to ration her speed and dropped back to fifth last out in her 2006 debut. Chic Dancer has won 4 of her 8 starts on the Arlington turf, and could be a factor in the Reluctant Guest.

It's doubtful that any horse was more visually impressive in her last start than , last out at Hawthorne. Lighthouse Lil won the 2004 Lincoln Heritage, but finished seventh in the race last season, and by year's end had dropped all the way to a $35,000 claimer. At age 7, however, she seems resurgent for trainer Chris Block.

Lighthouse Lil won after a winter break approaching six months. You Dancing Devil has been away for seven, but Geier has shown a knack for winning with comeback horses.

You Dancing Devil is an intriguing one. You Dancing Devil seemed headed for a claiming career after her first five starts, but when Geier switched her to turf last summer, the change was dramatic. In her first three grass starts she won Illinois-bred first- and second-level allowance races and an open third-level allowance. Later in the summer, she was a close fourth in the Grade 3 Pucker Up, and second to the decent filly Isla Cozzene in the $150,000 Hawthorne Oaks.

"She's been training awfully well, and I think she'll run good," Geier said. "She loves this racetrack."

Lewis Michael likely Colonial-bound

The formal announcement earlier this week that Bernardini was skipping the Belmont Stakes had little effect on the plans for Arlington-based Lewis Michael, trainer Wayne Catalano said. Lewis Michael was considered a possible Belmont starter after his close second last weekend in the Peter Pan Stakes, but remains more likely to run next in the $1 million Colonial Turf Cup.

Steve Leving, the stable manager for owner Frank Calabrese, said he had anticipated before the announcement that Bernardini would bypass the Belmont, and that the Lewis Michael camp had decided to head to Colonial Downs for the June 24 race anyway.

The Peter Pan and a long van ride to and from New York seemed to take little toll on Lewis Michael, who came back from the race looking exactly like the horse that had left the week before.

Meanwhile, Dreaming of Anna, Lewis Michael's 2-year-old full sister, emerged from an impressive debut win here last Friday in good shape, but is unlikely to race in the coming weeks for lack of an appropriate spot. Dreaming of Anna won at 4 1/2 furlongs on dirt, but has been worked on grass and is reported to excel on that surface.

Original Spin targets Purple Violet

Arlington-Washington Lassie winner Original Spin is back in trainer Tony Mitchell's Arlington barn and has resumed galloping, and if she works to Mitchell's satisfaction in the next few weeks Original Spin could start in the Purple Violet Stakes on the June 23 Prairie State day for Illinois-breds.

Original Spin hasn't raced since she was eased across the wire in the March 5 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream, her first start since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Original Spin, according to Mitchell, was found to be suffering from hormonal imbalances that affected her performance in the race, and kept her from training for several weeks after the Forward Gal.

"A happy little camper she is," Mitchell said. "She could be ready for Illinois Day. If the weather looks real good, then she'll probably breeze next week. Right now, it's a plan; nothing is in stone."