09/15/2003 11:00PM

Twelve will run, many can win


CHICAGO - If nothing else, there sure are a lot of horses in Arlington's featured eighth race on Thursday.

Twelve, in fact, were entered in this first-level allowance at one mile.

Casual fans who crave high-class action may look elsewhere, but this race is a bonanza for players seeking a full, bettable field. The past performance lines seem to go on for pages. And they are rife with contenders.

Begin with the rail horse, Baccalaureate. In the context of expectations, Baccalaureate has been a miserable failure. Satish Sanan's Padua Stable paid $2.15 million for him at the Keeneland July sale in 2000. Baccalaureate has run four times, with a win, a third, a fourth and a sixth. But he is getting better. Making back the purchase price may be an unrealistic goal, but clearing his first allowance condition could happen at any time.

In fact, Baccalaureate ran in a second-level allowance in his last start, finishing fourth of six in a fast race. The performance gains credibility because Baccalaureate broke slowly from the rail, and actually chipped away steadily at a field that included an impressive next-out winner, Gold Tango. The forward progress in that 6 1/2-furlong race hints that Baccalaureate will be well-suited by the one-turn mile trip he runs at Thursday. He has drawn the rail again, but still can get a favorable trip under jockey Corey Lanerie, who has had an excellent run since joining the Arlington rider colony midway through this meet.

No fewer than three horses in the race were claimed out of their last start, including Thunderstorm, who makes his first start for owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Wayne Catalano, runaway leaders here in their respective categories. The outfit is known for its aggressive claim-and-drop tactics, but last week Catalano raised several horses in class after a claim, and they all ran well. Thunderstorm, third in a conditioned claimer at this mile trip last out, fits the profile and could improve.

Idealism won his career debut here Aug. 30 and has a reasonable chance for two straight. He was no Baccalaureate, but Idealism brought $410,000 as a yearling. He was late to make the races, just getting started this past summer, but as a son of A. P. Indy and a Sovereign Dancer mare, he is bred to be better as a 3-year-old than at 2 in any case.