10/08/2005 12:00AM

Conditions make feature hard to figure

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CHICAGO - There is a featured race Monday at Hawthorne, but just barely. With the horse population apparently taxed by a six-day racing week, the featured first scraped onto the card with just five runners. While some racing jurisdictions regularly let five-horses races go when entries are taken, it's a rarity in Chicago.

These are fourth-level allowance horses or $60,000 claimers - pretty good horses - but don't expect them to fly through the 1 1/16 miles on dirt: The Hawthorne main track is playing like a beach. The track surface's composition was altered before this season started, and some tinkering might be required. Day after day, tough-to-see winners have been rolling home, with times very much on the slow side. Many six-furlong races have been run in the 1:14 range.

The track obviously favored inside speed horses Thursday, but the surface appeared to even out through Friday and early Saturday. Teller Line, the only horse entered for the $60,000 claiming option in the featured first race, might wind up in front, but handicappers must ask themselves: Will it matter? Teller Line, trained by Mike Campbell, is eligible to win if she makes the front or secures a favorable stalking position. Carefully campaigned during the Arlington meet, she won two in a row there, most recently when entered for a $50,000 tag in an optional claimer Aug. 21. That race was at a one-turn mile, but Teller Line also has gone 7-4-2-1 at Monday's distance.

She will have front-end company from Code of Ethics, but that filly has totally lost her form this season. Since missing by a neck to Shadow Cast last December in a Fair Grounds turf stakes, Code of Ethics has finished no better than fourth and has been beaten at least seven lengths in six races - a pace factor, but probably no more.

Meadow Bride's last, a flop in her turf debut, is a throwout, but she has no experience facing older horses outside the Illinois-bred ranks. Still, this is a horse who likes Hawthorne, and she may surprise. Another Illinois-bred, Ms. Lydonia, would be winless this year had she not been placed first through disqualification in a stakes race restricted to statebreds here last spring. Both she and the final horse, Journey Fever, are contenders from off the pace.

* Bobby Kelly, the jockey agent for Roman Chapa, suffered a serious heart attack while at Hawthorne on Friday. Kelly was rushed into emergency surgery, and his condition appeared to have stabilized by Saturday.