10/20/2005 11:00PM

Agent's absence doesn't stop Chapa


CHICAGO - This past summer, Roman Chapa came to ride regularly in Chicago for the first time. Everything worked out pretty well - except when the man who brought him here almost died.

Chapa's agent, Bobby Kelly, was instrumental in bringing Chapa - a regular in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas - to Arlington in mid-meet. But two Fridays ago at Hawthorne, Kelly, middle-aged and energetic, suffered a major heart attack early in the afternoon. Rushed to the hospital, he had emergency surgery, pulled through, and was released back into regular life late this past Thursday morning.

"He's probably one of the 2 percent to make it with a heart attack like this," Chapa said from the Hawthorne jockeys' room early Friday afternoon. "They call it a widow-maker. Ninety-five percent of people who have it die before they get to the hospital, and most them don't make it through surgery."

Kelly does have some bulldog in him. Chapa said Kelly is going home to Louisiana with his wife, but expects to be back booking mounts in mid-November.

"There are no limitations for him. They just want to monitor his heart a little," Chapa said.

Strange thing is, Chapa has kept on winning at Hawthorne: Through Thursday, he was tied with several other jocks atop the standings with 14 wins. A big part of that is owed to his clientele, since Chapa has been one of the main guys here for high-volume trainers Steve Asmussen and Bret Calhoun. Chapa said the agent Michelle Barsotti has been helping out with his business, but that with Asmussen and Calhoun and "a few outside horses," things were not so very complex.

But Chapa probably isn't that long for Hawthorne. Though he left open the door to stay through the winter, Chapa probably will wind up at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs that begins Nov. 19.

Sweet day for Williamson

A quiet fall Thursday at Hawthorne turned pretty memorable for the trainer Brian Williamson, who won three of the card's nine races. Williamson struck in the third with Red Cross ($27), the fifth with Jambalaya Joy ($8.40), and the sixth with Overstep ($5.20). The three-bagger boosted him into a tie for fourth in the trainer standings with seven wins at the meet.

Williamson isn't too hung up on such things, but this is the first time he can remember winning three on a card since becoming the trainer of record in Chicago for the old Harvey Vanier barn.

"It was a good day, for sure," said Williamson, who is married to Vanier's daughter. At the Arlington meet, Williamson said, he had some horses who "weren't training that great."

He cited Red Cross: "I ran her once there, and her ankles blew up."

Williamson worked with Straight Line from late spring to early fall, but Straight Line will remain in Kentucky after finishing second last week in the $200,000 Perryville Stakes at Keeneland. Williamson said Straight Line was being considered for the Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill.

And Williamson will have one other out-of-town horse to root for: Singletary, who is trained by the Chicago native Don Chatlos. Chatlos, though only five years younger, is Williamson's nephew.

Head-scratcher of a feature

The Sunday feature is race 8, a second-level sprint allowance with a list of entries that seems epic in proportion. Apparently there are only 12 of them, but a handicapper could get lost in this race for an hour.

The favorite might turn out to be Wise Diplomat, from the Wayne Catalano barn. Wise Diplomat has in fact been favored in 4 of his last 5 starts, but that string includes two losses at this allowance condition. Maybe Sunday's the day - or maybe not.

Equally interesting is an out-of-towner named Cherokee Prince, who ships in from Great Lakes Downs for trainer Ronny Allen. The last time Cherokee Prince came to Chicago, in August 2004, he missed by less than a length at 35-1.

Mike Weissman dead at 82

Mike Weissman, 82 and a longtime trainer in Chicago, died Thursday after suffering a heart attack the day before. Weissman trained such local luminaries as Milwaukee Avenue and Powerless.

A viewing is scheduled for Saturday evening between 5 and 8 p.m. at Suburban Family Funeral Home at 35th street and Austin Avenue in Cicero, Ill.