09/18/2001 11:00PM

Two in Lassie near breakthrough

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CHICAGO - Two fillies from the fringes of Thoroughbred society have found their way to trainer Steve Asmussen's barn, and so far, neither has had trouble fitting into blue-blooded circles. While the Michigan-bred 2-year-old filly Cashier's Dream trains her way toward the Grade 1 Frizette next month, the Indiana-bred Miss Indiana will ship from Asmussen's Belmont string to Arlington for Saturday's Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie, Chicago's most important 2-year-old filly race of the year.

While Cashier's Dream was winning the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, Miss Indiana, who is by the Kentucky stallion Clever Trick, impressively won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race there. "She's done nothing wrong to this point," said Asmussen. "She's won at Keeneland and she's won at Saratoga."

Now Miss Indiana will try to win at Arlington, where she will make her first start beyond a sprint distance in the one-mile Lassie and, perhaps, escape the long shadow cast by the exceptional Cashier's Dream.

"I'm sure everybody would be more excited about her if Cashier's Dream weren't around right now," Asmussen said.

While Cashier's Dream rules the roost among the 2-year-olds in the Asmussen barn, Miss Indiana should rule the Lassie, at least in the betting. She is likely to be favored over another ship-in, Godolphin's Imperial Gesture, a highly impressive maiden winner last month. Locals should make up the rest of the field for the Lassie, and no horse among that contingent has shown enough here this summer to stay with a truly gifted young horse. Vicki Vallencourt and Don'truffleme, a pair of fillies coming out of claiming races, finished one-two in the Top Flight Stakes here, the prep for the Lassie.

Not Happening overdue to win

The unlucky Not Happening heads a field of 10 in Thursday's feature here, a second-level turf allowance for Illinois-breds. The 4-year-old Not Happening, owned by Veach, Mackie, and Crowns Way Farm, and trained by Gene Cilio, has somehow managed not to win any of his six turf starts despite running very well in four of them. Each time, he has been second, done in by bad racing luck or a slightly superior opponent.

Not Happening missed 10 months of racing between August 2000 and this June, but his knack for finishing second continued here this summer. In two starts at Arlington last month, Not Happening was beaten two noses, the first time at 24-1, and most recently as a strong second-choice. He almost certainly will be favored Thursday, as he meets one of the weaker fields of his turf career. There remains cause for concern. Not Happening does his best running on the pace, and the comebacking Uptown Clown, drawn to his inside, has speed and is almost certain to come out running. Not Happening might need a well-timed ride from jockey Ray Sibille to hold off closers like Limit Up and Jemsek.

*Thanks to a nationwide absence of sports betting and the closing of Belmont Park, Arlington had its second-biggest day of the year Saturday, handling more than $6.1 million in wagers.