09/22/2005 11:00PM

Big fields, bettable races are here

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STICKNEY, Ill. - They said at Hawthorne Race Course in the fall that they will produce big, bettable fields. And so far, they have.

Friday's opening day card brought out 104 entries, an average of 10.4 per race. Saturday, the total number was 98 for a 10-race program, and when Sunday's card was drawn early Friday afternoon, 80 horses were entered in nine races, an average of 9.5 per race.

While this will not be confused with Royal Ascot, Sunday's Hawthorne card at least ends with a pair of allowance races. Race 8 is for open entry-level allowance horses at six furlongs on dirt. Race 9 is another entry-level allowance, this for Illinois-breds at two turns on turf. The eighth race drew a field of 11, the ninth a field of 12.

In the eighth, take an extra glance at a pair of fillies with Hawthorne wins in their form, Aroarable and Tally Ho Dixie. Aroarable is trained by Roger Brueggeman, who had strong meets here in the spring and fall and won race 2 on Friday, and she seems ready to step forward off a fourth-place finish last out at Arlington. Tally Ho Dixie won her maiden here on April 9 by more than 11 lengths, and last time out, in her turf debut, finished a decent third after a freshening.

The horse for the ninth should be Class Ack. His trainer, Mickey Goldfine, also had an opening-day winner, and Class Ack has shown nothing but positive signs in two starts since returning late this summer from a long layoff. On Aug. 24, in his second career turf start, he won his maiden by 1 1/2 lengths and was going away late - and appears to have further room to improve in this start. Big Bold Place, second to Class Ack in that Aug. 24 race, also has a chance, as might longshot Caped Crusade.

Coolwind pointed towards Alcibiades

The 2-year-old filly Coolwind looked like a winner on the far turn of the Arlington-Washington Lassie, but she flattened out in the stretch and finished third behind Original Spin and Ex Caelis. But Coolwind, an impressive debut winner on Arlington Million Day in her only other start, may get another shot with graded stakes horses, since she is tentatively being pointed to the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland.

"We're probably going to go to the Alcibiades," said Greg Geier, who trains Coolwind. "She came back real good."

Geier might consider running Coolwind in an entry-level allowance race, but he doubts one at a route would fill here at Hawthorne.

Turf and two turns are out for Straight Line

Once again, Straight Line looked like a horse simply unable to produce his best form when racing around two turns. Straight Line ran flat and finished off the board last Saturday in an overnight turf stakes for 3-year-olds at Arlington, that after a sharp one-turn dirt score on Million Day. And it was probably not his first trip on turf that got him, either, since Straight Line had worked strongly on the grass a couple of weeks earlier.

"He didn't get the best of trips, but he should have run a little better than that," said trainer Brian Williamson. "He came out of the race great; he was bouncing around the next day walking."

Straight Line is a graded stakes winner at one turn on dirt, and for now, at least, he will be kept in long-sprint, main-track races. The one on the near horizon, Williamson said, is the $200,000 Perryville Stakes at about seven furlongs on Oct. 14 at Keeneland.

Humor at Last runs his best race yet

The Illinois-bred 3-year-old Humor at Last turned in perhaps the best performance of his career last Saturday, finishing second in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park. Trainer Jerry Calvin said Humor at Last might have struggled over the unfamiliar Polytrack surface early in the race, but soon got his feet under him and made a long, sustained run while racing wide.

"We don't have any specific plans for him now, but we might run him at Keeneland. He's a pretty good horse," Calvin said.

* Cloudy's Knight, an overnight turf stakes winner at Arlington in his last start, was expected to run Saturday in the Carey Handicap here, but trainer Frank Kirby elected to pass on the race and wait for something at a longer distance. The Carey is at a mile, and Cloudy's Knight's most recent win was at 1 1/2 miles. One upcoming goal is the River Cities Handicap at Churchill Downs.