12/20/2007 1:00AM

Coach Jimi Lee ships in

EmailThe straightest line of travel from Chicago to Miami doesn't come close to intersecting with West Virginia. But before the Midwest-based older sprinter Coach Jimi Lee gets to his winter headquarters at Gulfstream Park, trainer Jim DiVito is making a side trip to Mountaineer Racetrack for the $75,000 Christmas Stakes at six furlongs.

If Coach Jimi Lee gives a performance typical of a career in which he has won 16 of 41 starts and $906,248, he should win the Christmas. But there are some doubts about whether he's still the same horse. After winning the Waterford Park Handicap in his previous trip to Mountaineer in May, Coach Jimi Lee spent six months on the sidelines recovering from a splint-bone injury.

In his comeback at Churchill Downs, Coach Jimi Lee backed up badly and finished last of seven as the 2-1 favorite. DiVito couldn't find any physical reason for the poor effort and was encouraged enough by three subsequent workouts at Hawthorne to enter Coach Jimi Lee in the Christmas.

If Coach Jimi Lee fails to fire, the prime win candidate looks like Ravalo, a 3-year-old who upset last month's Sophomore Sprint Championship locally with a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

Aside from last year's running, when Fabulous Strike freaked and posted a 119 Beyer, the average winning figure for the stakes since 2001 is 96, which indicates that 107-pound lightweight Trophy Road may be a live longshot.

Though his best races were against Ohio-breds at Thistledown and River Downs, the 3-year-old Trophy Road has won 3 of his last 5 starts, all with Beyers between 94 and 97.

If it rains, wet-track specialist Bubba Gum would become a prime contender. He has been no worse than second the last four times he raced on off tracks, though one of the seconds was in a non-betting match race at Delaware Park. He comes off a four-length win worth a 103 Beyer, the best of his 45-race career.