10/06/2008 11:00PM

Big Al Cordes faces none to fear here

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Based on his form at the Arlington meeting, Big Al Cordes looks mildly suspect at the six-furlong distance of the featured seventh race on Thursday at Hawthorne.

Looking at his two published workouts since shipping in to Hawthorne, and having seen the nice late turn of foot Big Al Cordes displayed winning a five-furlong turf sprint on Sept. 7, he seems like the horse to beat in the Thursday feature.

Big Al Cordes was one of eight 2-year-olds entered in a dirt sprint for entry-level allowance horses or $50,000 claimers. The field size for this race is decent, but overall, the number of entries on Thursday's nine-race card took a turn for the worse. The good news is, Thursday's lackluster entry total might be a one-day aberration, since big fields return Friday.

Big Al Cordes finished fourth in his career debut, but that 4 1/2-furlong Polytrack race on June 8 turned out to be one of the fastest 2-year-old maiden special weight races of the Arlington meet. Second to graded-stakes-placed Coronet of a Baron in his second start, Big Al Cordes looked ready to clear the maiden ranks on the Aug. 9 Arlington Million card, but after racing close to the early pace, he flattened out and finished sixth of eight.

His Sept. 7 turf race was much better. Big Al Cordes settled nicely, finished well, and won with authority, scoring by almost four lengths. The grass race was at five furlongs, and the Aug. 9 Polytrack race at six, leading one to wonder whether Big Al Cordes might have severe distance limitations. But that reading could be premature. On Sept. 25, Big Al Cordes worked five furlongs in 1:00.40, fourth-fastest of 34 works at the distance, and his 1:01 clocking was third-fastest of 47 five-furlong works last Thursday.

"He might be better on the turf, but he works fine on the dirt," Jim DiVito, the trainer of Big Al Cordes, said Tuesday. "I think he can get the three-quarters."

Part of the reason to favor Big Al Cordes is the competition, none of which is distinguished. Proceed Bee won his debut at Arlington on Aug. 24 by more than two lengths, but he cedes valuable experience to Big Al Cordes on Thursday. My Man Moran won an Arlington sprint maiden race well enough before getting overwhelmed in the Arlington-Washington Futurity. A Steel Trap finished second in the Sept. 13 Prairie Meadows Freshman, but how strong was that five-horse field?

Karlsson serves suspension

Hawthorne followers will note that jockey Diego Sanchez replaces Inez Karlsson on Big Al Cordes. That is because Karlsson, who had been aboard Big Al Cordes in his first four starts, is on a three-day suspension this week (Wednesday through Friday). Karlsson was suspended for letting her mount in the sixth race on Oct. 2, Kissit, drift in at the top of the stretch, which caused Chris Emigh on Sun for Fun to check sharply. Since Kissit finished sixth, and Sun for Fun third, there was no inquiry or disqualification.

Karlsson's absence this week is notable since so far this Hawthorne meet she has ridden more horses (61) than anyone else, and through Sunday topped the jockey standings with 11 wins, two more than Emigh. Near the end of the Arlington meet, Karlsson did not rule out riding somewhere other than Hawthorne this winter before her apprentice allowance expires next year, but her agent, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, said Tuesday that Karlsson intends to ride the entire meet here.