09/01/2004 11:00PM

Tamweel steps up higher than desired


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When Wayne Catalano flew to Southern California three months ago to test-drive the 4-year-old filly Tamweel for a group of prospective purchasers, he liked what he saw and felt. He liked it a lot.

And so something like $200,000 changed hands, and Tamweel came to Chicago, where she sharply won two straight races, prompting her connections to think big - Breeders' Cup big.

Now, confusion has arisen. "I was thinking the Breeders' Cup was in October, not now," Catalano said Thursday.

It was a joke, but Tamweel's people aren't really laughing. Tamweel gets her first real test Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Matron Handicap, a race that has lured the 2003 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Adoration from California. The nine-horse field also includes multiple graded-stakes winner Bare Necessities and La Reason, winner of the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher two months ago.

, owned now by a partnership between Turf Express Inc. and Darrell and Evelyn Yates, looked like a graded-stakes horse when she won an overnight stakes here Aug. 13 by five lengths. Catalano is quite high on the filly, but said: "You hate to have to run a Breeders' Cup kind of race when the purse is $150,000."

, who arrived Monday, makes her first start since June 12, when she shipped and won the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill. Owned by the Amerman Racing Stable and trained by David Hofmans, Adoration was 40-1 when she upset last year's Distaff, but has since proved the win was no fluke.

"She's a bigger, stronger horse now," said Hofmans. "She's a more mature horse than she was at this time last year."

Adoration is being pointed to a defense of her Distaff title, and the Matron is the first step toward that goal.

"It's not imperative she wins this race," Hofmans said. "I want a good, strong finish from her. I think she's pretty tight. I've put some good, strong works into her."

Adoration and Tamweel both have speed, and Hennie's Song could show pace from the rail. The faster the better for Bare Necessities, who has gotten into trouble in all three of her starts this summer.

"I'm just hoping for a good, clean trip," said Frank Kirby, who took over Bare Necessities' training just in time for the bad run of luck. "That's all she needs. She's been training great."