11/02/2004 12:00AM

Tamweel will head straight to Fair Grounds


CHICAGO - Tamweel checked in fourth Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, an admirable showing for a filly who has come a long way in a short time. But Tamweel will not be checking back into Chicago, where she spent most of the run-up to the Breeders' Cup.

Tamweel is cooling her heels this week at Lone Star Park, and when she leaves, she is headed to Fair Grounds, where she will winter with trainer Wayne Catalano. Tamweel appeared to have come out of the Distaff in fine physical condition, but her racing schedule has not been determined.

Catalano, who has returned to Chicago to oversee his streaking Hawthorne stable, was headed late Tuesday morning for an early Italian lunch at Teddy's, a couple of miles from Hawthorne. His immediate plans were set; Tamweel's are not.

"We haven't sat down and mapped things out yet," Catalano said, referring to himself and Tamweel's owners, Mark Cornett of Turf Express Inc., and Darrell and Evelyn Yates. "After we take her over to Fair Grounds, we'll see where we're at, and see where we're going to run next."

Tamweel set a blistering pace in the Distaff while racing over a drying-out racetrack, the consistency of which Catalano likened to "peanut butter." Catalano hoped for a fully dried, fast track, and considering the pace and the nature of the surface, he said he felt Tamweel "ran huge."

"She came back extremely good," he said.

Tamweel began her career racing on English grass courses, and she is a dual-surface horse. A return to grass will be considered, said Catalano, who added, "I'd love to run her a flat mile on turf."

There is a Grade 1 spot for that later this month, the Nov. 28 Matriarch at Hollywood Park, but Catalano might hesitate to wheel Tamweel back that soon.

Thursday to be route day

Sometimes racing fans moan over the domination of sprint races at tracks across the country. Sprints have no place Thursday at Hawthorne, where the entire nine-race card is composed of two-turn races, seven of them on dirt, two carded for grass.

The route festival didn't happen by accident. Gary Duch is Hawthorne's racing secretary, but he is also an avid racing fan, and has been since childhood. He notices things like a surplus of sprints, and will step back from the five-day-a-week grind of filling races to try for a little twist, a slight sweetener.

"I wanted to see if we could make it happen," Duch said. "Personally, I think two-turn races are a little easier on the horses."

But the Thursday program is no easier on handicappers. There are few obvious standouts in the day, though Creeker's Surprise should win the lone open allowance race on the card. She was one of seven horses entered in the fifth race, an entry-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on grass, and Creeker's Surprise - much like Duch - looks like a fan of two-turn racing.

Trained by Jerry Calvin for owner James Blackburn, Creeker's Surprise began her career last winter at Oaklawn Park, running decently in a couple of sprint races before breaking through with a maiden victory in her two-turn debut.

The filly missed more than five months, returning with a pair of decent efforts in September, one at Arlington, the more recent one at Hawthorne. But both races were sprints, and Thursday's stretch to two turns should propel Creeker's Surprise to a short-priced victory.

Meier set for return to riding

The jockey Randy Meier will make his latest comeback from an injury-related layoff here Thursday. The 50-year-old Meier has ridden more winners at Hawthorne than anyone else in the track's recorded history.

But just about every year, Meier suffers some kind of injury - sometimes serious, sometimes less so - and he was especially unlucky this past summer. Meier was riding not a horse, but a minibike, when he took a spill and broke his collarbone. He has been working horses for about a week and is ready to roll, according to his agent, Jimmy Ernesto.

With Meier's return, Ernesto is representing two riders at age extremes. While Meier's career is in twilight, Ernesto's other client, Miguel Mena, is just 17.

Mena comes from Peru, and he went to the same jockey school as the rising star Rafael Bejarano, but his arrival in Chicago this summer after an initial stop in Florida went unheralded.