12/04/2003 1:00AM

Ajedrez tough to beat in default feature


Ajedrez, one of the more gifted allowance runners seen during the Arlington meet earlier this year, returns to the races Saturday for Hawthorne's featured fifth race, a $34,000 four-other-than allowance with a $50,000 claiming option. The optional claimer replaces the $40,000 Little Brother Stakes as the feature after the stakes failed to draw sufficient entries.

Ajedrez, acquired from Argentina earlier this year by owner Frank Calabrese, easily ran through his first three allowance conditions at Arlington last summer. With several group placings to his credit in Argentina, and with a perfect record in the United States, Ajedrez was next sent to New York to contest the Grade 1 Vosburgh, but finished a disappointing ninth in a field of 10.

Ajedrez has been working slowly over the more tiring Hawthorne track, but will be difficult to beat with anything near his best. Eddie Razo Jr. rides for trainer Wayne Catalano.

Early speed has been favorable at Hawthorne in recent days, and an upset may be possible by those who like to race on or near the lead. Too Many Bucks, winner of the Lightning Jet Stakes here in 2002, has raced only twice this year, but may be sharper returning to the main track in his second race back from a layoff. Andelegend and Phoneforchampagne, both winners over the track this meet, have also demonstrated the speed necessary to win.

Julie's Prize headed to Aqueduct

Julie's Prize, the 11 1/4-length winner of the Illini Princess Handicap last month, will race once more this year in the Grade 3 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 20.

Trainer Tony Mitchell had originally scheduled a winter vacation in South Carolina for Julie's Prize following the Illini Princess. The filly is currently in South Carolina for a freshening, but her vacation will be cut short to run in the Ladies.

"She's bouncing back in fine fashion and is bucking and squealing," Mitchell said. The 10-furlong distance of the Ladies, one of the few graded stakes for fillies and mares at the distance on dirt, is attractive for a horse like Julie's Prize, who Mitchell said "can run all day."

Mitchell also has plans for his Illinois-bred 2-year-old Sir Fidgity, who is headed to the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity on Dec. 20 following an entry-level allowance win at Hawthorne last week.

A close second in the six-furlong Sun Power Stakes for Illinois-breds last month, Sir Fidgity was making his two-turn debut in that allowance and seemed to appreciate the added ground. The 1 1/16 miles of the Jim Edgar Futurity, said Mitchell, "should hit him between the eyes."

* Jaguar Friend, who beat Sir Fidgity by a neck in the Sun Power, is currently residing at Fair Grounds, and trainer Bobby Springer is keeping his options open in regards to his next start. Springer said if Jaguar Friend appears to be training well enough to handle 1 1/16 miles, "we may ship him back up" for the Jim Edgar Futurity. An alternative plan is the $60,000 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds going six furlongs on Dec. 28.