04/25/2008 11:00PM

Ex-claimer Captain Bucky may go favored

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Captain Bucky did run for a $30,000 claiming price last year, but at the moment he does not look like a claiming horse. A third-place finish behind the salty old turf horse Moonshine Hall on March 13 came in a second-level allowance race at Fair Grounds, and a repeat of that performance probably would land Captain Bucky in the winner's circle after the featured fourth race on Monday at Hawthorne.

Captain Bucky was one of seven horses entered in a second-level allowance carded for 1 1/16 miles on turf. He was 68-1 in that Fair Grounds start, but will be a much shorter price Monday - perhaps even favored for trainer Richie Scherer and jockey Jesse Campbell.

Captain Bucky raced last year and in 2006 in a handful of $30,000 maiden-claimers, but appears to have improved considerably with racing and with a switch from dirt to turf. His first grass race came last summer at Remington Park, and in five turf races Captain Bucky has two wins and a pair of thirds. Racing for trainer Kelly Von Hemel, Captain Bucky made two dirt starts at Oaklawn before moving to Scherer's barn and returning to turf last month in New Orleans. Captain Bucky has posted three timed workouts since shipping to Chicago, and appears to have a good chance of holding his form.

At least slightly complicating Monday's closing-day feature here is the lack of early speed in the race: Only Joni's Justice and Kon Krete Kid show any sign of front-running tendencies, and both of those horses come from the barn of trainer Hugh Robertson. Kon Krete Kid has been away since Sept. 1, and Joni's Justice looks like the stronger of the uncoupled Robertson horses. Joni's Justice ran decently over this course last fall, but Monday's distance may be slightly longer than his best.

Training title still not decided

Racing shifts to Arlington on Friday after a three-day dark period this week, but there is still the matter of leading trainer to be settled at Hawthorne. Partway through Saturday's card, Frank Kirby and Tom Tomillo remained deadlocked at 20 wins apiece.

Kirby's run at the title has been hampered by some tough luck: He has 27 second-place finishes to go with his 20 winners.

Meanwhile, jockey Tim Thornton will win his second straight Hawthorne riding title.