11/26/2004 12:00AM

Getcozywithkaylee may have more in the tank

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Will Getcozywithkaylee fall victim in Sunday's fifth race to the principle of three-and-out - three improving races followed by fumbling form? And if you can answer that question, try this one: Have the fastest horses in the eighth race already lost their form?

The fifth and the eighth both are second-level sprint allowance races, but the fifth is for fillies and invites open company, while the eighth is restricted to Illinois-breds.

In her 15-start career, Getcozywithkaylee has compiled a 4-2-2 record, but at Hawthorne she has two wins and a second from three starts. Off from August through October, Getcozywithkaylee finished second in her first start this meet, showing more spark than she had in her final Arlington Park race. On Oct. 21, she won a 3-year-old $16,000 claimer, then came back 20 days later, easily beating entry-level allowance horses.

Those are the three - but Getcozywithkaylee might not be out. In fact, she has lucked into a race that appears soft for the class level. Shootandcharge, Royal Prize, Paul's Dream - these horses all have finished fairly close in recent races of similar quality, but they won't induce fear. Getcozywithkaylee can lead or stalk the pace, and she is the pick to win her third in a row.

A couple of months ago, the eighth race would have presented an interesting face-off between up-and-comers Defense Motion and Camp Nagawicka, both of whom looked a cut above the average statebred sprinter. But Camp Nagawicka's form went south sometime around September, while Defense Motion failed to clear his second statebred allowance condition while turning in efforts far above par for the class level. Those fast losses might have drained him, and Defense Motion finished third at odds of 4-5 here three weeks ago.

These are the two best horses in the eighth race, but if neither can produce an adequate effort, how about another upset from Iron Rogue? Iron Rogue showed promise here last fall at age 2, but after a private sale, and a pair of dismal runs in open stakes races last winter at Turfway Park, Iron Rogue disappeared for months. He returned Nov. 6, winning a statebred entry-level allowance race with a late rush. Now, Iron Rogue might be the horse on the rise.

Kopca takes over Asmussen string

There was still snow on the Hawthorne turf course Friday afternoon. The racetrack was mucky, and low clouds held pollutants close to the ground. At least hot dogs were going for just a buck, and the traffic on I-55 appeared to be flowing.

This is the atmosphere that has held Pat Cuccurullo the last several years, but Cuccurullo was spending this Friday afternoon house hunting in 70-degree Phoenix. The guy who was leading trainer here this past spring has followed through on this plan to leave the racetrack, and Cuccurullo has indeed resigned his position as trainer Steve Asmussen's assistant in Chicago. He leaves behind a barn that through mid-card Friday led the Hawthorne standings with 19 wins, three more than trainer Wayne Catalano.

The Hawthorne string is Asmussen's overflow, and it says a lot about the season he's having that this group of animals has propelled him to the top of the local standings.

"It's ungodly some of the horses that have won up there," Asmussen said.

Asmussen has turned day-to-day oversight of the Hawthorne string to Shannon Kopca, who was assisting Cuccurullo before his departure.

"She passed her assistant's test," Asmussen said. "The first horse she saddled - Yankee Trail - won."

Asmussen's Hawthorne horses will trickle out of town through December, but he said that "the ones that are running well there will stay there" as the meet winds down. Still, Asmussen could hang on for the training title, since Catalano has sent 20 horses to Fair Grounds, and has only 18 remaining at Hawthorne.

* Hawthorne was open for training Friday morning, but no horses recorded timed workouts.