09/25/2002 11:00PM

Two fillies are a study in contrasts


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - One is a filly who never showed great ability in her training but has turned out to be a runner. The other is a filly who dropped hints she could be any kind of horse, but disappointed in her first couple of starts.

The first is Souris, the other Ashraaf, and one of them probably will be favored Saturday in a chaotic edition of the Grade 3, $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie.

A one-turn mile on dirt, the Lassie attracted a field of 13. They come from all over the map, and on paper there hardly is a horse to be eliminated with confidence. Fewer than 13 may start, since trainer Bernie Flint entered three fillies - each a separate betting interest. For good measure, Flint's son, Steve, also has a horse for the Lassie.

Ashraaf has started one more time than Souris, but the unbeaten Souris has accomplished more, winning Arlington's best 2-year-old maiden filly race of the meet and the Aug. 31 Top Flight by two lengths in a game performance. Souris was 14-1 in her debut, an atypically long price for a Steve Asmussen-trained 2-year-old, but even Asmussen had no strong feelings about Souris then.

The Asmussen stable gauges its unraced stock by how they perform against each other in morning workouts, and Souris, owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, had never distinguished herself. But put the filly on the racetrack in the afternoon and her competitive fires burn. She won her debut by 4 1/2 lengths, and, trapped inside throughout the Top Flight, Souris found another gear in the stretch and won by two. At a mile, the Lassie may tax her pedigree, but Souris has given Asmussen positive signs that she will stay the trip.

On the other hand, Ashraaf already has. Shipped here from trainer Eoin Harty's California base early this month, Ashraaf won a mile maiden race here Sept. 14 by more than 10 lengths, and if jockey Frank Lovato had asked Ashraaf at all in the stretch, that margin would have been greater.

The win stood in stark contrast to her first two races, in which Ashraaf showed brief speed and faded, but Ashraaf's problems were in her head, not her ability. Harty prescribed the trip to Arlington to give Ashraaf a chance to wind down in a quieter environment, which is exactly what has happened. Ashraaf could be found Thursday morning walking quietly around the racetrack during training hours, and the filly has been visiting Arlington's paddock two times a day. Assistant trainer Davey Duggan and the other local Godolphin crew have been working hard to keep Ashraaf on the right track. Saturday, they will find out if they have succeeded.

Caucus will go in Alcibiades

Somewhat conspicuous by her absence from the Lassie is Caucus, second to Souris in her career debut and an easy winner of a one-mile maiden race. Caucus has been turning in powerful workouts the last three weeks, but owner Arthur Hancock and trainer Mike Stidham have decided to send her to Keeneland for the Grade 2 Alcibiades on Oct. 4, rather than try the Lassie. Caucus vans from Arlington to Lexington three days before the race.

Caucus looks like a filly who will run two turns, and her connections hope she has enough quality to go to the Breeders' Cup. It's for that reason especially that the two-turn Alcibiades was preferred over the one-turn Lassie.

"I think the two turns will be really beneficial for her right now," Stidham said.

Pleasant Breeze in rare road trip

When Pleasant Breeze arrived at Arlington on Thursday for his start Sunday in the $400,000 Washington Park Handicap, it marked his first trip away from the East Coast since the summer of 2000, when he shipped cross-country and finished ninth in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Now 7, Pleasant Breeze has been all over the country, but in the last two years trainer Jim Bond has kept the horse close to home, focusing especially on the Saratoga meet, where Pleasant Breeze has won at least once in three of the last four years. Pleasant Breeze's most recent race was a convincing win in a high-end allowance race in the Saratoga mud.

Pleasant Breeze seems to run best when he has the lead, but he will battle with Generous Rosi and perhaps Tenpins on Sunday if he is to set the pace. The three horses with the speed, the stalking longshot Bonus Pack, and certain favorite Macho Uno are the horses confirmed for the Washington Park.

A field of seven, headed by Capsized and Mystery Giver, is likely for the Sea O' Erin, Sunday's supporting stakes.