12/16/2004 12:00AM

Can Humor at Last handle a route?


CHICAGO - Humor at Last survived round one of Saturday's $100,000-added Jim Edgar Futurity - the post-position draw.

With 14 2-year-olds packed into the 1 1/16-mile Edgar, and with a short run into Hawthorne Race Course's clubhouse turn, an extreme outside draw virtually eliminates a horse. , who will be favored after easily winning the first two starts of his career, should be fine, having secured post 4. But one of his main rivals, Win Me Over, got the short straw, post 14, with fringe contender Fielding only slightly better off in the 13th stall.

The post draw shouldn't impact Humor at Last. The next question is two turns. Half the Illinois-breds in the Edgar have raced over a distance of ground, but Humor at Last is part of the other half, sprinters unproven going long. Trainer Tony Mitchell grew enamored of Humor at Last long before his seven-length debut win here Oct. 16, and even right after Humor at Last had put on a show of speed in his maiden win, Mitchell was talking about the colt as a route horse.

"He's very professional, very relaxed," Mitchell said this week.

Humor at Last, by Distorted Humor, might have raced under the silks of the Russell Reineman stable, but Reineman died earlier this year, and Humor at Last, training in Mitchell's barn, was sold privately - with Mitchell's help - to Ron Armstrong and John Wallace.

The two men have themselves a runner.

A month after his debut romp, Humor at Last faced a tougher test in the $90,000 Sun Power Stakes, but he made short work of that field, too, sitting just off the pace, taking over in the stretch, and drawing away to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Humor at Last hasn't missed a beat since: The Edgar has long been his goal, and here he is.

If the race unfolds as it appears on paper, the pace will be hot - too hot for a young horse to hang on. Jockey Larry Sterling, who flies in from California to ride, might try and take a gentle hold, placing Humor at Last behind Chateau, the inside speed, and one or more of the stretch-out sprinters who might try to cross over from the outside and contest the pace.

On the rail is Dr. Hocking, who struggled in three sprints but leapt forward when he was switched to two-turn races, beating statebred maidens here in early October and finishing second of 10 three weeks ago in an open entry-level allowance. As the speed starts coming back, Dr. Hocking should be revving up.

And goodness knows what sort of trip Win Me Over will suffer, breaking as he does from a position closer to the parking lot than the inside rail. Win Me Over has twice been beaten by Humor at Last, but he moved forward in a Nov. 28 maiden win, and turned in an excellent six-furlong breeze Dec. 9 prepping for the Edgar.