10/29/2007 11:00PM

Good place to hit 'all' button

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Stare long and hard enough at the past performances for the eighth race on Thursday at Hawthorne, and the 10 horses entered may start to blend together into one horse. That's how hard they are to separate, on paper at least. Out on the racetrack, the story may prove much different - but go ahead and try forecasting its outcome.

Race 8, an entry-level Illinois-bred sprint allowance, and the nominal feature on a nine-race program, is the penultimate leg of the late pick four, and smack in the middle of any late pick three schemes Hawthorne bettors generate. And it looks like a classic "spread" race in terms of multi-race wagers.

While it might be possible to take a stand with a horse like Tootie's Gal, it will be more difficult to feel comfortable about it. In Tootie's Gal's favor, trainer Tom Swearingen wins at a 26-percent clip with mid-range layoff horses, and Tootie's Gal hasn't been out since July 20. She shows four recent breezes, the last a slowish six-furlong of the sort often seen from Swearingen comebackers. Tootie's Gal came within a nose of winning a sales stakes here in the spring, and improved through the summer, but her 1-for-12 career win mark gives one pause.

Win percentage, however, is not a strong suit in a race where the field has compiled a record of 12 for 114. Fueling that ignoble record is Goldekips, still another horse who, despite her 2-for-25 win record, must be counted as a contender. Goldekips has failed in nine races this year, but she almost certainly got the wrong trip last time out when she finished third in a race of similar quality. That day, in a race with no early speed whatever, Goldekips pressed the pace and finished evenly. She's at her best making one run from well off the leaders, and may get that kind of trip this time.

One early pace factor is another Swearingen-trained horse, She Must Be Magic, who is not coupled with Tootie's Gal. Another may be Madame Cassan, one of two horses in the race coming off a winning performance. Madame Cassan knocked on the door while racing on Polytrack and turf over the summer at Arlington, but strangely - considering her poor form here last spring - broke through with a maiden win last out in a Hawthorne dirt sprint. Beating 10 rivals on Oct. 14 for trainer Brian Williamson, Madame Cassan might run right back to that effort.