12/10/2004 12:00AM

Apache Point turns heads in debut


STICKNEY, Ill. - The best young horses in Chicago were supposed to have left town already, but at least one remained behind. A 2-year-old colt named Apache Point made his career debut here Wednesday, and he made a splash.

Breaking on top in a six-furlong maiden race, Apache Point ran comfortably while leading into the stretch. When the favorite, Rotary, made a run at Apache Point at the three-sixteenths pole, jockey Seth Martinez shook the reins and Apache Point took off. He opened daylight in 50 yards and was five lengths clear at the finish, stopping the clock in 1:09.70, one of the fastest times of the meet. The racetrack was playing unusually fast Wednesday, but the race still looks strong considering Rotary finished more than six lengths clear of third in a 12-horse field.

"Right from the start we thought this horse had a lot of potential," said Frank Kirby, who trains Apache Point for George Middleton's Iron County Farms. "Everything he did was really fluid."

Apache Point is by Royal Academy and out of the Fappiano mare Flashy Attraction, a very nice pedigree - especially if you were thinking about stretching out a young horse in distance.

"I think he will run long," Kirby said. "He didn't get tired after that race. What I've always thought is a good horse is a fast horse that can go a route of ground. Maybe he's the one."

Kirby has sent Apache Point to his training center in Maple Park, Ill., where the horse can exercise indoors during inclement weather. Apache Point's next start could come at Oaklawn Park, where Kirby has eight stalls this year.

Humor at Last turns in quick five furlongs

After turning in a slow maintenance breeze Nov. 24, Humor at Last, an unbeaten Illinois-bred 2-year-old, was back to his snappy self with a five-furlong work in 1:00 here Dec. 4, the second-fastest of 42 on the day. Humor at Last convincingly won the Sun Power Stakes in his last start, and he is the horse to shoot for next weekend in the Jim Edgar Futurity.

On Thursday, Win Me Over, one of Humor at Last's main rivals, answered with his own powerful workout, going six furlongs in 1:13.

"I had a team going five-eighths that broke off way in front of him, and this son of a gun went and got them," said trainer Brian Williamson. "He worked great."

Win Me Over was third to Humor at Last in the Sun Power, but came back to win his maiden Nov. 28. At two turns, the Jim Edgar will be a new ballgame for both of these horses.

Humor at Last "looks pretty tough right now," Williamson conceded. "But we're a little more seasoned. I think this horse will be fine going long. He's kind of push-button - real relaxed."

Williamson said he also plans to run Army Blue, the Sun Power fifth, in the Futurity.

Air Academy often hits board, but not on top

In Air Academy, Williamson and his mother-in-law, owner Nancy Vanier, have the likely favorite in Sunday's featured seventh race, a second-level route allowance restricted to Illinois-breds.

The Vanier mare Barn Swallow, who made a good living running long on turf, produced Air Academy. The 3-year-old handles both grass and dirt, and has been admirably consistent; his problem has been breaking through with wins. Air Academy has won 2 of 16 starts while finishing second or third 8 times. He was second by three lengths in a race like this one on Nov. 17, and second by a nose on turf Oct. 31.

Air Academy runs along near the back and comes with one late run, leaving him susceptible to traffic and slow paces. There should be at least a moderate pace in Sunday's seventh, with Subsequently and United Freedom likely to go for the lead.