09/26/2002 12:00AM

These 'B' team players no slouches


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The good-natured California rivalry between Bob Baffert and Eoin Harty goes Midwest when the two trainers send out the top choices Saturday in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, a Grade 3 prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Harty was Baffert's assistant before he found work as Godolphin's American 2-year-old guru, and the two trainers often chase the same prizes with expensive young horses. Saturday, three colts from their Midwest satellite operations square off in the $150,000 Futurity, run at a mile on dirt.

From Baffert's Churchill Downs string comes Echeverria, while Harty has two local colts for the race, Sharp Impact and Anasheed.

The Futurity, downgraded from a Grade 2, combines with the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie on Saturday for Arlington's biggest day of 2-year-old racing.

The two Godolphin colts and Echeverria were among 10 2-year-olds entered in the Futurity. The field also includes Comic Truth, a maiden claimer in Florida but an easy winner of two Louisiana stakes after joining the barn of Cole Norman. Comic Truth makes his first start for trainer Kenny McPeek.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has pointed Worker Man - second in the Middleground at Lone Star - to the Futurity for some time, while trainer Ronny Werner arrived here from New Jersey with Most Feared on Monday. Most Feared easily won the $50,000 Continental Mile at Monmouth in his last start.

But even Baffert's and Harty's "B" teams rate an edge over their opponents. Sharp Impact has won both of his starts, including a convincing score in the Sept. 7 Spectacular Bid, the sprint prep for this race. Sharp Impact has good speed, but assistant trainer Davey Duggan described him as a "push-button colt. You can put him wherever he needs to be."

Anasheed, who may prove better at two turns on turf, has no speed at all and will need a fast pace.

Echeverria ran dismally in his career bow June 29 at Churchill but showed immediate improvement with the addition of blinkers. He won two straight at Ellis Park before finishing second to Private Gold in the Ellis Park Juvenile.

"He's a very intelligent horse, not overly hard on himself," said Baffert's Kentucky assistant, John Good. "He's had six weeks between his last start and this one, and he's feeling pretty good right now."

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