11/04/2004 12:00AM

Bodgiteer returns at same level

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CHICAGO - You could imagine the first excuse coming centuries ago somewhere on the sands of the Arabian Peninsula. You could almost imagine one sheikh, the one shaking his head over a disappointing race, saying to another: My horse didn't handle the surface.

Yes, postrace explanation must extend back into time nearly as far as racing itself. But as for Saturday's horse races at Hawthorne, trainer Chris Block is having none of it.

"I don't see that much difference," Block said when asked to compare the racing surfaces at Arlington Park and Hawthorne. "I think a good horse will adapt to whatever surface he's on."

If it's that simple, then the Block-trained should win the featured eighth race here Saturday, a third-level dirt-route allowance with a $35,000 claiming option. At Arlington, this kind of race has a $62,500 option, and on Sept. 10, while running for the claiming tag, Bodgiteer won by three-quarters of a length. Since he won for the tag, Bodgiteer can run back at basically the same class level, this time racing under allowance conditions. And if he has carried his Arlington form across town, Bodgiteer is the one to beat.

There are eight others in the race, carded for 1 1/16 miles. Over the long term, the best of them has been the pint-sized Colorful Tour, an Illinois-bred with 10 wins in 30 starts and more than a half-million in purse earnings. But Colorful Tour has slid this season, going winless in nine starts, though his last three races have come on turf and he probably is a better dirt horse.

Also going turf to dirt is Gwaihir, who has made his last four starts with stakes horses, but who has never even raced on fast dirt, and lost his only start on a wet main track.

could give Bodgiteer a run, and he is better than a fourth-place finish here three weeks ago would suggest, since he raced wide that day on an inside-favoring track.

But Bodgiteer, the only horse Block trains at the moment for Team Valor Stables, looks like the one. He has tactical route speed, and - with six wins from 16 starts - a proven will to win.

He should be tough to beat Saturday at Hawthorne - no excuses.