04/19/2006 11:00PM

Despite flaw, Colita is still favored


CHICAGO - Some tidbits about an aging horse named Colita. Colita's original trainer, Carlos Morales, doesn't even train horses anymore, at least not in this country. Way back in 2003, Colita raced at Tampa Bay Downs against Coach Jimi Lee, who owns the six-furlong track record at Hawthorne. Colita was bred by Charles Nuckols and Sons, which means he was a product of the old Russell Reineman operation, one of the better-known in Chicago.

But the one little fact that stands out above all is that at age 6, and with 24 starts and 8 wins, Colita has never won a stakes race. Yet he will probably be favored to do so in the Grade 3, $250,000 , one of two graded stakes on Saturday at Hawthorne.

Colita, in from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher, was one of just six to go into the NJC 'Cap, though only five seem like real contenders, since the locally based Courthouse remains eligible for a third-level allowance race. But two other locals, Nkosi Reigns and Three Hour Nap, have a chance to get the better of the New York contingent, which also includes the old warrior Evening Attire.

Colita seemed to be over the hill last year at 5, when he went through a very tough stretch during the summer and fall. But at Aqueduct this winter, Colita revived his career, and after an impressive win in a high-end allowance race on Feb. 15, he came back with a solid enough third to West Virginia, another Pletcher horse, in the April 1 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap. But Colita has not made a major ship in years, and in Saturday's race he doesn't figure to get the same kind of fast pace at which to run as he did in the Excelsior.

Neither does Evening Attire, fifth in that race, but the long stretch at Hawthorne figures to suit the 8-year-old gelding, once a Grade 1-caliber horse.

Three Hour Nap won the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity in 2004, and after a light 3-year-old campaign in 2005, seems to be coming around now. After a pair of tune-ups, he looked good winning a high-end allowance March 31 at Oaklawn, and has worked smartly since shipping to Hawthorne for trainer Hugh Robertson.

"I'd think he has a chance in that spot," said Robertson. "He's trained well."