01/09/2008 1:00AM

Belated debut for 10-year-old

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Sovereign Sigh might be making his first career start in the ninth race on Friday at Hawthorne, but the horse has seen plenty of this world. That's because Sovereign Sigh makes his racing debut days after reaching the crusty age of 10.

If Sovereign Sigh somehow should step up and win, could he be labeled precocious?

Sovereign Sigh is a son of the obscure sire Harriman and the mare Lil Donna Pearce, a daughter of the equally obscure sire Mr. Cinder Man. Like Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville, Sovereign Sigh was bred in Oklahoma. The fellow that bred him, Mark Steven Osko, still owns Sovereign Sigh, and called up to Chicago last month looking for someone willing to take the horse. That someone turned out to be trainer Manny Perez.

"He's been here about three weeks," Perez said. "I don't care what people say about it. I had no problem with taking the horse. The people are excited about getting him in a race. I haven't had any trouble with him."

Sovereign Sigh had several works at Blue Ribbon Downs in Oklahoma, but the horse still was not a fit animal when he arrived at Hawthorne.

"He was a little fatter when I got him, but I put him on a strict diet," said Perez. "He has lost a lot of weight. He looked like an old warhorse when he came in - now he looks like a racehorse."

Perez said he had heard a litany of ailments that delayed Sovereign Sigh's first start: sickness at 3, bucked shins at 4, this, that, and the other thing. "But once you get them over that hump, you're good to go," said Perez.

Sovereign Sigh got in a six-furlong gate work on Jan. 4 at Hawthorne. Now, Perez sounds a lot like many trainers with more traditional first-time starters.

"This horse can run, but I wish I had one more work in him," he said.

Instill's next start still up in air

Instill, a good-looking winner of the Jim Edgar Futurity over Illinois-breds here in his most recent start, continues to train along at Hawthorne for his 2008 debut. Instill is shipping out of town for his first start at 3, but whether he winds up in Arkansas or Kentucky remains to be determined, trainer John Wainwright said.

Instill scored a blowout maiden win on Nov. 10, and captured the Dec. 15 Edgar by five lengths. He has since posted two workouts at Hawthorne, the most recent of which was a six-furlong breeze in 1:16.60 last Saturday.

Wainwright said he probably would prefer to start Instill in the Smarty Jones at one mile on Jan.o21 at Oaklawn Park, but he fears that race will overfill, and that Instill will be excluded, since starting spots are determined by earnings in unrestricted races, of which Instill has few. If not the Smarty Jones, Instill could wind up in the WEBN Stakes at Turfway, another one-mile race, but one on Polytrack rather than dirt.

"I could be wrong, but I don't think we're going to catch horses on the Derby trail in either race," Wainwright said. "We're just trying to find our level and go from there."

Riverson goes for three in row

In the past, Riverson has failed to string together consecutive wins, but he followed up on an easy score on Nov. 30 with another comfortable victory on Dec. 22, and will be favored to make it three straight in the featured seventh race on Friday.

Riverson starts in a race open to third-level allowance horses with a $50,000 claiming option, just the kind of race he won in his last two starts. And indeed, three of the other six horses in the race finished behind Riverson in his most recent victory.

Riverson, owned and trained by Owen Rainwater, who claimed the horse for a mere $10,000, is an eight-time Hawthorne winner, and a horse that seems to excel during the local winter slog. His finishing kick has been powerful lately, and Riverson even got in a maintenance half-mile work in preparation for this race, hardly a sign that his form is flagging.

Quite Acceptable finished fourth behind Riverson last time, but might be able to do better on Friday, since he makes his second start back from a long layoff. Friendsturnedfoes is a new player in the division, having cleared the Illinois-bred second-level allowance ranks with a win in his most recent start.