11/13/2007 12:00AM

Celeritas vulnerable on the grass

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - An Oaks winner races Thursday at Hawthorne. And no, it is not the winner of the English, French, Kentucky, or even the Arlington Oaks. It is Celeritas, an 8 1/2-length, odds-on winner in the Oct. 21 Kansas Oaks at the Woodlands.

That Oaks carried a $20,000 purse, significantly less than the pot for which Celeritas competes in the featured eighth race here Thursday, a third-level allowance also open to $40,000 claimers and carded for a mile on grass.

It's the racing surface, however, and not the obscure recent venue that makes Celeritas suspect in the Hawthorne feature. Celeritas is trained by Jason Mamakos, who has engineered a 2007 campaign that began in California, moved to Iowa, and now winds up in Chicago after the Kansas start. Mamakos apparently is not heavily occupied caring for other horses; he shows 12 starts in 2007, and Celeritas has made 11 of them.

But while Celeritas needed eight tries to win a maiden race - doing so in a maiden special over Cushion Track in July at Hollywood Park - the addition of blinkers and a move to dirt have turned her into a useful animal. On Sept. 15 at Prairie Meadows, she finished third in the Iowa Oaks behind two really good horses, West Coast Swing and Tessa Blue. No such foe awaits Thursday at Hawthorne, but Celeritas has gone 4-0-0-1 on turf, and may have her best chance should weather force a move to the main track.

On turf, the pick to win is Lil Cora Tee, who finished second by a head here Oct. 25 in a race at this same class level. Lil Cora Tee has made only three starts on turf, but has a pedigree - Lil E Tee out of a Runaway Groom mare - well suited to turf racing.

Penny Dream, a half-length behind Lil Cora Tee last out, also shows up in Thursday's eighth, as does Ric Rac, who looked good winning an Illinois-bred turf allowance here Oct. 4 before dumping her rider at the start of that Oct. 25 race.

Not only did Hawthorne get the featured eighth to go, they assembled an interesting enough cast of 2-year-old entry-level allowance horses for race 7, a six-furlong dash that drew a field of eight. Know the Game, who races under a $50,000 claiming option, won a race at the class level last out, edging return rival Predestination. But it's a pair of last-start maiden winners, Palmerstown and I's the Boy, who command the most respect in this spot.