09/22/2004 11:00PM

'Carmen' prepping for derby

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CHICAGO - The featured 10th race on Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course is a second-level turf allowance for 3-year-olds and up, but you might as well think of it as a proving ground for Hawthorne Derby hopefuls.

Ten horses entered the 1 1/8-mile race, and seven of them are 3-year-olds - no coincidence, since the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby is Oct. 16, making this a perfect prep race.

"Yeah, we're kind of pointing him toward the Hawthorne Derby, if things work out," said Jodie Sinclair, trainer of Lord Carmen, one of the 3-year-olds.

Lord Carmen breaks from post 9, and hasn't started since Aug. 9, but still looks like a prime contender. Owned by Frank Calabrese, Lord Carmen struggled to win his maiden, finally doing so in this sixth start. That first win came this past spring during the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne meet, and Lord Carmen has steadily developed since then. But Lord Carmen, a son of Ordway, really moved forward when he made his grass debut - with a sharp middle move, he coasted to an entry-level allowance win at Arlington. The victory earned him a trip to Woodbine, where he finished fourth of 11 in the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile grass race restricted to horses bred in Ontario.

"I thought he ran a hell of a race up there," said Sinclair, who had taken over Lord Carmen's training just weeks before the Woodbine adventure. "The trip took a lot out of him, but he's on his toes now. I think he's going to run a big race."

The one horse outside Lord Carmen is a nice one named Good Job, a Steve Flint-trained Kentucky invader who has won 2 of 3 grass starts and has the early speed to get position from this wide draw. Hunting Hillbilly and Crown Prince, both entry-level allowance winners at Arlington, also fit the spot.

The three older horses are not throwouts, either, especially Ground Hero, who has won two in a row and proven a good $18,000 claim for trainer Moises Yanez. Ground Hero won an entry-level allowance Sept. 4 at Arlington by three lengths, and worked a bullet half-mile on dirt here for this start.

"He ran pretty good races his last three times, and he's still training good," Yanez said. "He's had some quarter cracks. I think the Arlington turf is a little softer, so I hope he likes this course."