09/23/2007 11:00PM

A coup for Gold Cup by getting Student Council

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - When the Illinois Racing Board awarded 2008 racing dates to the state's racetracks in a meeting last week, chairman Joe Sinopoli argued against granting Arlington Park's request to race through mid-October on the grounds that such a schedule would imperil the Hawthorne Gold Cup, which often has served as a prep race for a horse or two with designs on the Breeders' Cup Classic.

So, it would have looked none too good had the 2007 Gold Cup, which will be run Saturday, come up with an entirely lackluster field. That was a possibility over the weekend, when the connections of Street Sense opted for the Kentucky Cup Classic over the Gold Cup, but it appears Hawthorne's signature race will be saved by the bell.

Stakes coordinator Debbie Lindsay said Monday morning that Jonesboro, an accomplished stakes horse, would be supplemented to the Gold Cup for a cost of $10,000. But bigger news than that came from California, where Vladimir Cerin said Student Council, upset winner of the Pacific Classic in his most recent start, would fly on Tuesday to Hawthorne, where he figures to be a solid favorite for the $500,000 Gold Cup. Cerin said owner Ro Parra, who privately purchased Student Council just before the Pacific Classic, was turning the horse over to trainer Steve Asmussen, under whose name he would start Saturday. Asmussen didn't answer calls Monday afternoon. Parra, who races under the nom de course Millennium Farms, has shifted horses between the two stables in the past.

Student Council had never won a graded stakes race before his 23-1 victory in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. That race was contested on Polytrack, and Student Council has won 3 of 5 starts on synthetic racing surfaces. On conventional dirt tracks he has compiled a record of 3-3-2 from 12 starts, with his biggest win having come earlier this year in the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston.

Jonesboro, a Grade 3 winner of seven races, was freshened over the summer, and easily won a Remington Park allowance race in his most recent start. Also expected for the Gold Cup are A.P. Arrow, most recently third in the Washington Park Handicap; the multiple Grade 3 winner Gouldings Green; and longshots Miami Sunrise and Wayzata Bay.

Two turf races, the Grade 3 Robert F. Carey and the ungraded Indian Maid, are also on the Gold Cup card.

Lisa M overdue for a win

Some horses never improve upon their 2-year-old form, and until she can prove otherwise, Lisa M will be lumped into that group.

At odds of 35-1, Lisa M upset the 2006 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes by a nose, but one year and eight races later, she still has not won another race. That could change Wednesday at Hawthorne in the featured fifth race, a second-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on grass. Lisa M was one of only seven fillies and mares entered in a race that came up light for the class level.

Lisa M has tried turf only once, and she ran well, finishing a troubled third last winter at Calder in the Tropical Park Oaks. There are more racing opportunities - and more dollars - available to 3-year-old filly dirt horses, however, and one can easily understand why Lisa M's connections, owner Larry Bielfeldt and trainer Dave Kassen, kept her to dirt racing early this year. Kassen entered Lisa M for turf Aug. 24 at Arlington, but the race came off the grass, and Lisa M wound up running poorly. She has, however, come back to work three times since then, and could be primed for an overdue victory Wednesday in Stickney.

Others with a chance are Polysheba, who won an entry-level Arlington turf allowance in her most recent start, and Priceless Gem, who will contend if her Polytrack sprint form transfers to a grass route.

Main track seems deep and slow

Hawthorne changed the composition of its main track for this racing season, adding clay and sand with thicker grain in an effort to keep the surface from becoming too deep and laboring. The track did seem tighter than in year's past - for one race. But after Friday's opener, the surface reverted to its more typical form, with the only a couple horses breaking 1:12 for six furlongs during the three-day opening week.

Betting on Friday's opening card was solid enough: $198,391 ontrack, and $3,053,232 overall. Saturday's total handle was about $2.4 million, while total handle on Sunday fell to $1.8 million.

Trainers Wayne Catalano and Kerry Zavash both won two races opening week. Eddie Razo had four wins, best among riders, while defending riding champion Chris Emigh began the meet 1 for 22.