11/04/2008 12:00AM

Dee's Rose looks good despite layoff

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Whether we're talking about the known or the unknown, the Thursday card at Hawthorne seems especially difficult to figure.

Take the day's two allowance races. Race 5 is for second-level Illinois-bred female grass horses, and handicappers by now should have a good sense of what each of these runners can do. But analysis of race 3, an open entry-level dirt-sprint allowance, probably has much more to do with projection than established form. Specifically, is the long-layoff horse Dee's Rose going to build on the ability she showed this past winter and spring in Tampa?

At Tampa, Dee's Rose finished a badly troubled third in her career debut last December, won a maiden race in her second start, and then was thrust into stakes competition. Two tries around two turns produced disappointing results, but Dee's Rose was a much better second of nine in a cutback to a seven-furlong Florida-bred stakes, the Sophomore Fillies, on April 5.

But that was the last time we saw her. Away from the races seven months, Dee's Rose has been breezing like she means business. She has five Hawthorne workouts, going 1:00.80 from the gate on Oct. 19, and working a bullet 1:00.20 from the gate on Oct. 26. All trainer Dale Bennett does is win with 30 percent of starters returning from layoffs like Dee's Rose's, so go ahead, take the short price on this filly. Favorites, after all, are winning 37 percent of the races so far this Hawthorne meet.

Merely identifying the favorite in race 5, the one-mile Illinois-bred grass race, looks challenging, though one assumes Queen of Flowers will get a tepid nod from the betting public. Queen of Flowers was favored at 5-2 in a similar race here Oct. 5, but finished third, beaten a half-length, after contesting a moderate pace.

Just in front of Queen of Flowers that day was Fox Force Five, who rallied from sixth at the stretch call to finish second by a neck. Fox Force Five's 39-1 odds that day are duly noted, but the filly has almost always been a longshot and it might be a mistake to treat her recent performance as a fluke.