10/04/2006 11:00PM

Cavu primed for better run on tighter track

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Bruising storms slammed Chicago on Monday night, knocking out power, uprooting mature trees - and finally tightening up the main track at Hawthorne.

Loose, deep, and difficult for many horses to handle, Hawthorne's dirt track got doused Saturday night before taking even more rain Monday evening, and the result Wednesday, the first day of this racing week, was notably quicker times and less spinning of wheels in every dirt race.

The change pertains to Saturday's featured eighth race, a main-track route open to third-level allowance horses or $40,000 claimers. Among a full field of 12, five already have raced at the meet, and horses like Cavu might have been disadvantaged by the racing surface.

It's not that the track had turned beachy when Cavu raced Sept. 16 - that came a week later - but on that day, the rail seemed notably superior to outside paths, and horses making an inside lead often proved tough to catch - horses like Tepexpan, who won Cavu's race by 1 1/4 lengths over Confederation, who had chased in second. Cavu, off a little more slowly than usual, raced in seventh, tried to rally in the stretch, but found himself getting no closer to the leaders, even while passing other horses to finish fourth. On the sort of track seen here Wednesday, Cavu, a two-time Hawthorne winner, could do better in the Saturday feature. Leading rider Chris Emigh gets a rare call for trainer Moises Yanez.

But what would a full field at Hawthorne be without complexity? Cavu might not even be Yanez's top horse in the race. Camptown King exits a pair of Arlington races at class levels higher than Saturday's, but he drew poorly on the outside and has proven to be more adept at Arlington's one-turn mile than two turns at Hawthorne.

Marion's Man finished in front of Cavu in that Sept. 16 Hawthorne race, but as usual, finished behind other horses, too. Marion's Man has put together a consistent season but has failed to win in eight 2006 starts, a microcosm of his career, during which he's won 5 of 53 starts, while filling out the place spot 13 times.

Besides the many older hands in the race, there is one younger horse, the 3-year-old Scion, with at least a glimmer of upside, although given his last start, a last-place finish in the Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs, Scion has nowhere to go but up. Before the Louisiana drubbing, Scion won a one-turn Arlington mile, and last fall he cleared the maiden ranks in a two-turn Hawthorne dirt race.