12/09/2005 12:00AM

Crew makes quick work of snowfall

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CHICAGO - By midnight Thursday, the snow finally had tapered off to a trickle, and it was time to rev up the tractors at Hawthorne Race Course.

Hawthorne canceled its Thursday racing program before a flake of snow had even fallen in Chicagoland. Good call. When the clouds finally had finished emptying, there was somewhere between seven and nine inches on the ground, and just more than 12 hours until the Friday races.

The main track had been sealed in preparation for the storm, so the first job for the midnight maintenance crew was clearing the track of snow. Teams of tractors with scrapers attached pushed mounds of snow to the outside fence. That was still being cleared Friday morning - sometimes manually - as crushers and harrows were continuously dragged over the main track all morning. Instead of horses training at Hawthorne, it looked like a farmer's convention.

"We were ready to go at 11:30 this morning," said Hawthorne's assistant general manager, Jim Miller.

And at 1:10, as scheduled, the first race went off - track fast. Snowstorm? What snowstorm?

Tomillo all over the card

It eventually had to happen during December at Hawthorne: a full program with nothing but claiming races. Sunday's nine-race card doesn't boast so much as a straight maiden race or even an Illinois-bred entry-level allowance, a staple of the season. But of claimers, there are plenty.

And when we talk claimers in Chicago, the name of trainer Tom Tomillo cannot be far behind. Tomillo was making a run at another Hawthorne training title until Wayne Catalano decided to start sending out his waves of winners partway through this meet. As of Friday, Catalano held a 26-22 lead over Tomillo. Tomillo, however, stands heads above the competition here when it comes to horses started: His 213 more than doubles the next-highest total.

And Sunday will be a particularly busy day for Team Tomillo, with horses entered in six of the nine races. Their day begins in the first and ends in the ninth, but it is no cinch that Tomillo will end the afternoon with even one winner.

His horse in the first, Laverluck, finished ninth at 72-1 in his most recent start, and this race, a conditioned $10,000 claimer, is not substantially easier. Trainer Michelle Boyce might have the right one for this spot, a horse named Judge Perkins.

The Tomillo-trained Mrs. Capp has a better chance in the third, a crapshoot of a $25,000 maiden claimer, and then, after a two-race break, Tomillo has horses in the day's last four races. Young Knight ran huge when he finished second on Nov. 17 in a $25,000 3-year-old claimer, but back at the same level, Young Knight runs into an especially deep, speed-laden field in the sixth. The pick to win is the Catalano-trained Tupper Lake - if he runs. Coupled with Nan's Note, Tupper Lake may be scratched, in which case Radiant Gold could be the horse to take advantage of a speed duel.

The Tomillo barn's best chance may come in the last race, where Dealinwithinsanity may start as the favorite in a $4,000 claimer. Dealinwithinsanity won at the class level the last time he raced, and may go to the front under jockey Randy Meier.