11/22/2010 5:56PM

Coach Jimi Lee still dangerous at age 10

Jeff Coady/ Coady Photography
Coach Jimi Lee, winning the Iowa Sprint Handicap in 2006, has amassed more than $1 million in earnings.

The fastest sprinter in the history of Illinois racing, age-defying Coach Jimi Lee, hasn’t actually raced in Illinois since June 2009, but the 10-year-old gelding is scheduled to make his first Hawthorne appearance in more than two years when he starts in the featured sixth race on Wednesday.

Coach Jimi Lee was one of nine horses entered in a fourth-level allowance race also open to $50,000 claimers, by far the best weekday race of the Hawthorne fall meet. At most, eight horses will start, since Mambo Galliano, part of a Louie Roussel-owned and -trained entry, has shipped on to New Orleans. Roussel said he plans to run Recapturetheglory, the other part of the entry, at Hawthorne.

Coach Jimi Lee turned in the fastest six-furlong clocking ever recorded at Hawthorne or anywhere else in Illinois. But which is more remarkable? The three-quarters of a mile in 1:07.27? Or the fact that Coach Jimi Lee ran that fast on Dec. 12, 2003, and remains a competitive allowance horse almost seven years later?

Trainer and co-owner Jim DiVito has carefully managed Coach Jimi Lee through the last several seasons, aiming for $1 million in career earnings (The Coach crossed the million-dollar threshold in September) while keeping the horse at class levels befitting his lifetime accomplishments. That strategy and Coach Jimi Lee’s dislike for Arlington Polytrack have combine to send the gelding on regular road trips, and his last eight starts have come either at Hoosier Park or Prairie Meadows. Wednesday, Coach Jimi Lee can simply walk out of his own stall and over to Hawthorne’s underground paddock. But can he win the Wednesday feature?

Coach Jimi Lee’s state record came on a blazingly fast and hard-frozen Hawthorne strip, but he has mastered other types of Hawthorne surfaces too, with 4 wins in 5 local starts. Track surface is not an issue, and Coach Jimi Lee has finished first or second in seven of his last eight races, all against competition similar to Wednesday’s. Call the old man a contender.

Recapturetheglory won the 2008 Illinois Derby, part of his 3-for-3 Hawthorne record, but this is a route horse in a six-furlong dash.

“We’ll see if we can shorten him up,” Roussel said. “He’s been off a little while, and we needed a race.”

Neither See I A nor Conchacer has done anything like win a Grade 2 stakes or $1 million in purses, but both look like potential players in Hawthorne’s feature.