11/22/2007 1:00AM

Fun with Phil can win against these

EmailIt's supposed to make things easier on a horse, moving from open company into race restricted to horses bred in a particular state. But that's not how things have worked for Fun with Phil.

After three open races to begin his career, Fun with Phil made his first start against Illinois-breds three weeks ago at Hawthorne, and ran smack into a hot stakes field in the Lightning Jet Handicap. No match just then for the best of those strong sprinters, he goes back to open company - and a highly winnable spot - on Saturday at Hawthorne.

Fun with Phil, in from Churchill Downs for trainer Steve Margolis, was one of eight horses entered in an entry-level allowance race carded for 6 1/2 furlongs. And while the race is solid for the class level this time of year at Hawthorne, Fun with Phil looks good in it.

His third career start came last April at Hawthorne, where he beat open maidens by 10 lengths. But Fun with Phil didn't race again until Nov. 3, when he chased a quick pace, then faded late to third in the Lightning Jet. That race's winner, Mighty Rule, is a talented, experienced sprinter, and the place horse, Shrewd Operator, had just run a gutty race in graded stakes company at Keeneland.

"Yeah, we wanted to take a shot and run him there, but it was a little hard coming off the layoff," Margolis said. "He tried for a while, and just got a little tired, He's come back to work good at Churchill, and I think Saturday he'll be tough."

Fun with Phil might be Illinois-bred, but he is by top-shelf sire Distorted Humor. The work to which Margolis refers was a solid five-furlong drill at Churchill, and Fun with Phil should be set to step forward now.

The main competition appears to be Tampa's Big City, who will break from the rail, and War Wolf, who has the outside post. Tampa's Big City's form surged during the winter months at Hawthorne last year, and seems to be doing so again: His fast-closing third in an above-average $18,000 claimer last time out was his best effort in 11 months.

War Wolf, from the Steve Asmussen stable, has raced only at Churchill, Keeneland, and Saratoga, but after four failed attempts at an entry-level allowance win, he has earned a trip to the wintry wastes of southwest Chicago, where light snow was falling Thanksgiving morning.