02/23/2006 12:00AM

Char's Bob'n Robin in fine spot

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CHICAGO - This is about the fourth life for Char's Bob'n Robin, a 7-year-old gelding who has made it halfway to 100 starts as he launches his sixth season of racing at the National Jockey Club meet on Saturday at Hawthorne. Once a promising young Illinois-bred in 2002, Char's Bob'n Robin let his star fade in subsequent seasons, and when the trainer John Witthauer claimed him in the spring of 2004, Char's Bob'n Robin was available for an $8,000 price tag.

But since entering Whitthauer's Fairmount Park-based barn, Char's Bob'n Robin has turned back the clock. He won twice for Whitthauer later in 2004, and Char's Bob'n Robin had an excellent 2005, compiling an 11-4-1-3 record with earnings of more than $81,000. On Saturday, he may be the horse to beat in race 7, the second division of a split third-level allowance race with a $35,000 claiming option that lets Char's Bob'n Robin and many others into the two races.

won a race under these same conditions on Dec. 17, his final start last year, and Whitthauer has given him two February works to prepare for his 2006 debut. Char's Bob'n Robin has the rail, a fine spot for an old professional like him. With 16 wins on his tally sheet, Char's Bob'n Robin has no problem taking dirt early in a race and waiting for his rider to give him a cue later on.

Char's Bob'n Robin should find a spot close behind won a second-level sprint allowance at Hawthorne in his final 2005 start, and would appear to have a decent chance at another victory Saturday.

The first division of the Saturday feature goes as race 5, and like the seventh has seven entries. Here, a speed duel looms between Jimmy's Boy and Storm the Beach, and though either horse could win if he somehow shakes free, the race seems more likely to fall into the lap of an off-the-pace horse like Stratematic, Papa Fuse, or Johnathan.

Stratematic's best performance in 2005 came at Hawthorne in his first start of the season, and he has three recent works for local legend Richard Hazelton. Papa Fuse has been stuck at this allowance condition for nine starts, but is good enough to win, while stretch-running Johnathan must hope for a pace meltdown if he is to score his first victory since April 2004.