12/15/2008 12:00AM

Choragus back in tough spot


STICKNEY, Ill. - A 3-year-old filly named Choragus made her career debut April 13 at Hawthorne and won a six-furlong dirt maiden race by almost seven lengths - perhaps the most striking maiden victory of the entire meet here. But this is December, not April, and Choragus figures to encounter much different circumstances when she returns from a lengthy layoff in the featured sixth race Wednesday at Hawthorne.

Choragus was one of eight fillies and mares entered in a second-level allowance race carded for 6 1/2 furlongs. No horse in the race has turned in a victory as sharp as hers, but the race is no walkover, either. The admirably consistent Rose Princess returns to the distance at which she cruised to an entry-level allowance victory three races ago, and perhaps even more competitive at the moment is Great Squawk. Racing under the wintry, super-fast racetrack conditions likely to hold sway Wednesday, Great Squawk easily won an entry-level allowance race here Dec. 4, her second straight win of the Hawthorne season.

For Choragus, the Wednesday feature marks her first race since July 5, when, in her third race, she finally showed vulnerability. The impressive Hawthorne debut win had been followed by a blowout entry-level allowance victory at seven furlongs on Arlington Polytrack, and on July 5, Choragus was the 2-1 choice to beat seven foes in the $53,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes, her two-turn debut. Held up behind a slow pace, Choragus made a minor run, but flattened out and finished third, beaten five lengths by the decent Dreaming of Liz.

She's not been seen since - unless you have been spending mornings at Hawthorne. There, Choragus has logged five timed workouts since she posted a bullet half-mile back on Nov. 4. Her trainer, Chris Block, wins with layoff horses of this sort as often as he wins in general, and the idle time alone may not keep Choragus from victory. More problematic is post 7 and a stalking style that could land Choragus an outside run on a racetrack that has often favored inside paths the last couple of weeks. Great Squawk has the same sort of style, but is drawn in post 3 and ducked to the inside on her way to victory last time.