11/29/2006 12:00AM

Few good alternatives to Mysterious Legend

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CHICAGO - If at first your can't-miss favorite misfires, bet, and bet, and bet again. That, at least, is the story of Mysterious Legend, who gobbled up win money throughout the fall before finally paying dividends with an easy win on Nov. 4. But after losing three straight races at odds of 9-5, 4-5, and 3-5, that $3.20 win payoff last time out wasn't sending anyone to the moon. And those interested in playing Hawthorne's featured third race on Friday face another Mysterious Legend dilemma: Take another short price, or try to beat the horse.

Even though he's stepping up in class from an entry-level to a second-level allowance race, Mysterious Legend figures to be favored again. He has that recent 6 1/4-length win showing on his form, superior Beyer Speed Figures - and a "bettor beware" sign blinking at anyone who cares to notice. Mysterious Legend, from the hot barn of trainer Jim Gulick, got an ideal pace-pressing trip on the way to his overdue victory, and after what look like top efforts in his last five starts, the horse might be due for regression.

Identifying Mysterious Legend's potential vulnerability is one thing. Picking an alternative from among his six rivals is another. Kierkendahl once was being mentioned in the same breath as the Triple Crown, but that was two years ago, and Kierkendahl hasn't won in seven starts since 2004. Proud Coming, in from Kentucky, hasn't run in an allowance race since September 2005, and was no match when he did. And while Bigboybdancing's second to the good horse Star by Design on Oct. 20 made him a heavy favorite here Nov. 10, he failed miserably that day, finishing last of seven. Zoeling is a game speed horse who may be hard-pressed to see out the entire 6 1/2 furlongs of the race. Hazard's Jimmy's last win came in an Iowa-bred entry-level allowance race, which leaves us with Silver Castle, who hails from the barn of leading trainer Tom Tomillo, and exits a win in a $25,000 claimer here. Silver Castle, however, did get an ideal trip on the way to that recent win, and he has no history of pairing up peak races.

Are those short odds on Mysterious Legend beginning to look more tempting?

Razo returns from shoulder injury

Eddie Razo, who hasn't ridden in a race since suffering a separated shoulder in a late October spill, won the eighth race Wednesday on his first day back. Even after missing five weeks of racing, Razo still is ninth in the Hawthorne jockey standings. Chris Emigh is the runaway leading rider here, and many of the more prominent jockeys have left town for the winter.