04/27/2002 11:00PM

With Ability wins Sixty Sails Handicap


CHICAGO - It's almost like watching the same race over and over again. A day after Emeraldforajudge led all the way in the National Jockey Club Oaks, a week after Hail the Chief led all the way in the National Jockey Club Handicap, two weeks after Pretty Gale led all the way in the Lady Hallie Handicap, and three weeks after War Emblem led all the way in the Illinois Derby, With Ability led - you guessed it - all the way to win the Sixty Sails Handicap on Sunday at Sportsman's Park.

It's true that the Sportsman's track surface promotes inside speed horse, but Sunday - and on other recent stakes days - the track wasn't especially speed favoring. You wouldn't know it from the result in the Sixty Sails, a Grade 3 race worth $300,000. With Ability cruised to a clear lead on a drying-out racetrack upgraded from good to fast during the card, and though she set a fast pace, she showed no sign of tiring during a stretch run so long that it took jockey Javier Castellano by surprise.

"This is my first time riding here," Castellano said. "I turned for home and I said, 'Oh my God, I don't see the finish line.'"

It was there all right, and when With Ability and Castellano crossed it they were five and three-quarters lengths in front of the longshot Lakenheath, who finished a half-length ahead of Katy Kat. With Ability, the second choice, paid $6 to win and was timed in 1:51.37 for one and one-eighth miles.

Pompeii, the Grade 1-winning favorite, barely was fourth in a disappointing try. Her jockey, Pat Day, felt Pompeii did not care for the racing surface.

With Ability did, and continued a remarkable turnaround for owner Edward Evans and trainer Mark Hennig that came about when the 4-year-old filly switched to two-turn racing this winter. With Ability, who has overcome a pair of serious injuries, nearly was retired for breeding this winter before being given a chance in a route race. She responded with an easy win, and now has won back-to-back Grade 3s.