06/22/2004 11:00PM

Valiant Anna loves this course


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Pat Cuccurullo will claim the right horse for $4,000, but their operation has an upper end, too. Valiant Anna is part of it, and she runs Friday in Arlington's featured seventh race.

Valiant Anna's spot is a third-level allowance race with a $62,500 claiming option that allows her, Chilling Effect, and Golden Trevally into the field.

For Valiant Anna, running here will be like running at home.

Four times Valiant Anna has started on Arlington's turf course, and four times she has won. She has not raced here since last August, when Wayne Catalano trained her and most of Calabrese's other horses, and she has made only one start since November, finishing second in a race similar to this one at Gulfstream Park.

"She's going to run good," Cuccurullo said. "She's been training real well."

Cuccurullo led the Hawthorne trainer standings this spring, and is in the thick of things at Arlington, with 11 wins, six seconds, and seven thirds from 38 starters at this meet.

"I'm satisfied with how we're doing, but you can always do better," he said.

Cuccurullo's lower- and mid-level claims have run well, but Valiant Anna is in a different class than the standard claimer. There are others in the stable. A fast 3-year-old named Nebraska Moon was to have run here Thursday, and the talented filly Liz on Polk Street - injured after her debut win last fall - is about a month away from a comeback start.

Valiant Anna does bring a good work pattern into this 1 1/16-mile race, and with five wins, she has an edge on the horses racing under allowance conditions. But in Hail Hillary, she has a formidable rival who has more recently established form.

Hail Hillary was to have run in the $75,000 Estrapade Stakes two weekends ago, but scratched when the race was rained onto dirt. Hail Hillary looked like a contender there, and she ought to be a force Friday.

Claimed out of a $30,000 maiden-claimer last summer by the Butterfly Stable and trainer Dave Kassen, Hail Hillary won a Maryland-bred stakes race and finished second in the Grade 3 Pucker Up last September. Hail Hillary was injured late last year and took the winter off, but she easily won her second start after a layoff May 13 at Churchill Downs and seems to be primed for a top performance.