12/11/2003 12:00AM

'Fever' likely favorite


Two weeks have passed since Journey Fever was beaten a neck in a controversial running of the Miss Mommy Stakes at Hawthorne. A 2-year-old filly trained by Brian Williamson, Journey Fever returns in Saturday's $100,000 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante for Illinois-breds at 1 1/16 miles.

In the Miss Mommy, Journey Fever advanced along the rail and cut into the lead of heavily favored Bad Kitty in the stretch. But Journey Fever never did get by Bad Kitty. Bad Kitty swerved in toward Journey Fever, and the inside lane perhaps was too narrow for Journey Fever to get through.

Jockey Larry Sterling, aboard Journey Fever, did not claim foul after the race, but Williamson did, only to see the claim disallowed after a lengthy review by Hawthorne stewards.

The Illinois Debutante should be a different story. For starters, Journey Fever is the likely favorite, dropping from open stakes company, and she has already established herself as one of the top statebred fillies, with a runner-up finish in the Showtime Deb Stakes on Nov. 8. The absence of Showtime Deb winner No Beans from Saturday's Debutante is another factor in Journey Fever's favor.

The only thing missing on Journey Fever's re"sume" is a win at two turns. She has had only one opportunity at two turns, and she finished third, 10 3/4 lengths behind, in an entry-level allowance.

Barrel Racer, also trained by Williamson, finished ahead of her stablemate in that allowance, but could finish only ninth in the Showtime Deb after trailing in the field of 14 with a quarter-mile to go. That showing was perhaps a result of breaking from the far outside post in that six-furlong sprint, but the fact she missed by only five lengths shows how tightly bunched the Showtime Deb field was at the finish.

Miss Outrageous, from the barn of Michael Reavis, makes her return to the races after spending the last five months on the sidelines. She won at first asking in a 4 1/2-furlong baby race at Arlington, then shipped north to Minnesota and captured the Canterbury Lassie Stakes by two lengths. Miss Outrageous has displayed early speed in both starts, but she will need to conserve some of that energy going long for the first time.

Two recent maiden winners, Defuhr and Wretched Excess, have seen their fortunes rise after stretching out to two turns.