10/18/2005 12:00AM

Bias would confound Red Cross


CHICAGO - Regulars on the Chicago circuit know that come fall the entry-level allowance condition begins opening up to all comers. A horse that might be a claimer - either open or conditioned - during the summer at Arlington can find a winnable allowance spot at the Hawthorne fall meet.

That's why none of the seven horses entered in the nominally featured third race on Thursday at Hawthorne should quickly be discounted. The race is for entry-level Illinois-bred fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Just what kind of dirt, however, will be interesting to note. The Hawthorne main track spent at least a week as a beach. Don't think Caribbean resort here, but rather the feeling of trying to run through loose sand. Track maintenance tightened the surface up last week: Wednesday and Thursday it was pretty much fair, if significantly quicker than the previous week, but by Friday, some trainers were complaining that the surface had gone in the other direction - too fast, too hard.

If Hawthorne is an inside-speed palace on Thursday, forget about the likes of , just the sort of horse who can jump up and win one of these fall entry-level allowances here. Red Cross won a $10,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer when she last raced on Aug. 18 at Arlington. Trainer Brian Williamson has become a reliable winner in Chicago the last two seasons, and if he sees fit to give Red Cross a shot at the allowance condition, it's safe to assume she is training well. But Red Cross is the sort of deep closer who basically had no shot on the tracks seen here at the end of last week.

And if speed is the game, take a peek at . With six starts, Tee Lak is more lightly raced than any of her opponents, having made her debut this past May 5 at Arlington.

Trainer Terrel Gore ran her short her first four starts, and Tee Lak won her maiden sprinting in her second start. Gore tried turf and two turns with her in late August at Arlington, and Tee Lak was a decent fifth of 12 despite breaking from a poor outside post. Last time out, she pretty much lost all chance with a five-wide run on the first turn at Hawthorne, pressing the pace on the backstretch before fading to sixth in a race much like Thursday's. With a sharp break this time, Tee Lak could wind up in front, controlling a soft pace.