10/14/2007 11:00PM

Bold Hawk getting better with each start

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Save for slightly losing his focus after making the lead at the sixteenth pole, Bold Hawk did just about everything right winning the Hawthorne Derby in his stakes debut and fifth career start Saturday. What's remarkable is that just a few short months ago, Bold Hawk had virtually no idea what he was doing.

Bold Hawk, a gelded son of Silver Hawk, has tremendous size, but at first he had little idea of what to do with his body.

"I'd be kidding if I said I could see this coming," said New York-based trainer Jimmy Toner, who reported that Bold Hawk had traveled back home Saturday night and come out of his race in good condition. "It was an overnight transformation. He was just a big old dopey thing, didn't do anything to make you get excited about him. He didn't want to train either. He's not an easy horse to be around."

Bold Hawk debuted June 24 at Belmont, not because he was sitting on go, but because Toner needed to do something to try and move forward.

"I finally got him about three-quarters fit and I thought, 'I'm just gonna go ahead and run him,'" Toner said. "I thought it'd take four or five starts to break his maiden."

Bold Hawk finished seventh of 10 at odds of 34-1 under Jean Luc Samyn in his inaugural run, but the short comment on his official running line, "Some interest late," speaks volumes.

"Around the turn, I thought he was going to pull up and prop," Toner recalled. "Jean Luc hit him once down the lane, and he took off. Jean Luc came back and said, 'This horse can run.'"

Samyn, who guided Bold Hawk through basically a perfect trip Saturday, has been there for every step of his rapid rise. Toner changed bits for Bold Hawk's second race, a maiden win, and Bold Hawk has come forward every start since. Saturday, he edged favored Twilight Meteor, who had just missed to Nobiz Like Shobiz in his most recent out. Next month, Bold Hawk and Nobiz Like Shobiz might meet in the Hollywood Derby.

The Hollywood Derby, on Nov. 25, is "another step up, but he's taken every step so far," Toner said. And late-maturing Bold Hawk gives his connections something to look forward to in 2008, too.

"Next year, we're really looking forward to," Toner said.

Thornton injured in gate mishap

Jockey Tim Thornton's surprisingly strong Hawthorne run was derailed Thursday, but probably just briefly. Thornton was off his mounts late Thursday and then all through the weekend after suffering a leg injury in a gate mishap. But Thornton's agent, Jimmy Ernesto, said Monday that Thornton's injury wasn't serious, and that he expected to return to action Wednesday.

"We originally thought it might be bad, but he ended up having a deep bruise to the calf muscle," Ernesto said. "He's going to work some horses Wednesday. If we can get back rolling right away, hopefully it won't affect us much."

Thornton missed four winning mounts - two each Friday and Saturday - but still emerged from the racing week atop the jockey standings with 21 wins. Eddie Razo has 19 victories, and surging Chris Emigh is up to 17, tied for third with Randy Meier.

Shrewd Operator's streak snapped

Shrewd Operator lost for the first time in three starts Saturday at Keeneland, but did not lose his luster finishing third in the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes. Shrewd Operator was beaten just more than two lengths by the winner, Steve's Double, an impressive showing given the fact that he broke from the rail and set a fast pace while trapped inside, only giving way in the final furlong. Given the inside-speed-killing tendencies of Keeneland's Polytrack, the effort was strong.

"I thought he ran well," trainer Chris Block said. "Things were working against him."

Block said there were no immediate plans for Shrewd Operator, an Illinois-bred who had won his first two starts by more than 13 lengths combined. He shipped back to Block's Hawthorne barn Monday.

Fort Prado, also trained by Block, worked a half-mile on turf Saturday at Hawthorne, and is headed the other direction: He ships from Hawthorne to Kentucky on Tuesday for a Keeneland turf-sprint stakes Thursday.

* In the featured fourth race Wednesday, a second-level sprint allowance, Flashy Lady looks like the horse to beat - and she can be beaten. Flashy Lady finished second at odds of 3-5 and second at odds of 2-5 here in the spring, and despite flashy works for her first start since June 29, may once again fail to clear her second allowance condition. Nicks or Ice Storm Coming could pull a minor upset.