03/20/2010 12:00AM

Duel may set up Big Rushlet


STICKNEY, Ill. - On the last day of winter 2010 in Chicago, the mercury hit about 65 degrees and it felt like spring. On the first day of spring, of course, it was snowing and barely above freezing. That was predictable - just about as predictable as the names that showed up in the co-featured fifth race on Tuesday at Hawthorne.

From the rail out, the fifth is comprised of Sub Futz Jr, High Expectations, Hold That Broad, River Bear, Big Rushlet, Moralist, and Celluloid Hero. Moralist, until a few starts ago, was a struggling conditioned claimer. Hold That Broad spends a lot of time on the shelf. All the others, though, any dialed-in Chicago racing follower knows, and knows well.

Big Rushlet, an excellent $25,000 claim by trainer Roger Brueggemann about 11 months ago, just won a race at a similar class level on March 5. In under allowance conditions that day, Big Rushlet runs for a $60,000 tag Tuesday in a six-furlong race also open to third-level allowance horses. Big Rushlet has finished first, second, third, and fourth in his last four Hawthorne starts, but might be a better horse over the spring racing surface here than the one in the fall and stands a decent chance of repeating his recent win.

Sub Futz Jr finished a half-length behind Big Rushlet when the two hooked up on Oct. 2. Sub Futz Jr makes his first start since then, and with just three moderate-looking works at Hawthorne, he could be a race away from his best. But trainer Hugh Robertson also has Celluloid Hero in Tuesday's race, and with three recent Oaklawn Park starts for Robertson's son, Mac, fitness should not be an issue for Celluloid Hero. His problem, rather, is a potential speed duel with Moralist and Hold That Broad, and if all three horses fight for the lead, Big Rushlet would be doubly tough.

A fast pace early and middle also could leave the door open for aging Illinois-bred High Expectations, who went winless in nine 2009 starts but rallied for second in the Lightning Jet Stakes here last October.

* Race 6 is the Illinois Breeders and Owners Sales Graduate, a $50,000 race restricted to horses entered in a local sale. The race is light on proven ability. Shakaleena, at least, has made it through her entry-level allowance condition, and she looks like the one to beat in a seven-horse field.