04/17/2004 12:00AM

Clear sailing for Ten Most Wanted

Four-Footed Fotos
Ten Most Wanted, under David Flores, is much the best in the NJC Handicap.

STICKNEY, Ill. - Ten Most Wanted will not win a medal for toying with five overmatched opponents Saturday in the at Hawthorne Race Course. At least he made it around the first turn this time. At least he reminded racing fans what an overpowering horse he is when things go his way.

In the Breeders' Cup Classic last fall, Ten Most Wanted was caught in traffic going into the first turn. Roughed up, he never recovered, finishing eighth. On Feb. 29, in the New Orleans Handicap, he found another mess in exactly the same spot. Carried very wide, Ten Most Wanted checked in a dull fifth.

Wally Dollase, Ten Most Wanted's trainer, wanted his horse to remember what it was like to win a race before he battled the best handicap horses again. The Grade 2, $250,000 NJC Handicap fit perfectly.

Under David Flores, who replaced Pat Day, Ten Most Wanted left cleanly, and in a six-horse field, he had a clean run into the first turn. Even better, the only two speeds in the race, Flemish Cap and New York Hero, locked horns and pushed the pace, winging through an opening half-mile in 46.90 seconds. In the clear, waiting in third, was the big horse, and Flores said he never had to ask for run. On the far turn, Ten Most Wanted ($2.40) inhaled the leaders, and he drew steadily clear in the stretch, with Flores taking a couple peaks back inside the eighth pole. The Grade 1 Pimlico Special, after all, is not that far away.

"He could have gone around again," Flores said to assistant trainer Amy Dollase.

"He was just breezing," Flores said a few minutes later. "It was an easy race for him. He was doing it on his own."

It could have been more, but the final margin was 6 3/4 lengths. Colonial Colony ran on well from the back of the pack, easily beating New York Hero for second. Ten Most Wanted was timed in 1:49.54 for nine furlongs, a good time.

"It was a perfect mind-builder and all that," Dollase said. "He had two very bad experiences, and he needed this."

All about geese and Monday's card

Friday, as the horses left the gate in the meet's first turf race, Hawthorne mutuels manager Packy Hart was witnessed trying to shoo a pair of geese off the course at about the six-furlong marker. The sullen birds refused to budge, and one nearly was wing-clipped by the lead horse before deigning to yield ground.

The local riders, on a more serious note, do fear the repercussions of a goose-spooked racehorse in full flight.

"They lay out there until you're right on top of them," said jockey Larry Sterling. "When you're going 35, 40 miles an hour, there's a potential problem there."

Hopefully, the goose problem will not rear its ugly head during Monday's nine-race program. As for a feature on that card, choose between the fourth and eighth, open entry-level allowance races, and the fifth, a second-level allowance for Illinois-breds.

In the statebred race, trainer Andy Hansen holds the strongest cards, but his hand has holes. On form, either Expendable or Octagon appears the most likely winner, but neither one of them has ever won at Hawthorne or in a two-turn dirt race.

Ghostly Gate, a stretchout sprinter, has the rail and decent speed in the fourth, and she probably faced better opposition in two Oaklawn Park starts over the winter. In the eighth, the other first-level allowance, form flies all over the map, so much so that a filly named Coq d'Or, who recently won a $10,000 maiden-claiming race, appears to have a legitimate shot.