12/11/2009 1:00AM

Good weather for speed


STICKNEY, Ill. - Yep - it's winter at Hawthorne all right. After no training Monday through Thursday here, Hawthorne opened its track for a half-hour exercise session between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Friday. And after canceling racing programs Wednesday and Thursday, the track was back in business Friday afternoon, looking like its traditional frozen self. Lower-class horses were running half-mile sprint splits in 44 seconds and change, and in race 3, a conditioned-claiming route horse, What About it Brud, went his opening half in 45.40 seconds - and still nearly held on to win.

"Is it harder than normal, yes, but you can get in a good two or two and one-half inches," Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller said. "Times are going to be a little faster, inside speed is going to hold a little better."

A winter storm that passed through the area Tuesday and Wednesday left little snow behind, but the temperature struggled to get out of single digits Wednesday and Thursday. That led to a cancellation of training and racing both days, as Hawthorne worked to keep the track usable for later in the week.

Miller said Hawthorne ran two crushers over the surface all day and night as soon as the temperature dropped in an effort to keep the surface from freezing and forming into clumps. Post times were to be compressed Friday to try to finish the card before nightfall. With a forecast high for Saturday in the mid-30s, the job of everyone at the track will be made easier - at least till the next cold snap or snowstorm.

New post helps Shrewd Operator

What was to have been Wednesday's featured race, a third-level sprint allowance also open to $50,000 claimers, is back Sunday as race 4 with the same field.

Favored will be Shrewd Operator, who drew post 2 this time around rather than post 1. Now Shrewd Operator breaks from outside his main pace rival in the race, Celluloid Hero, who landed the rail. That could benefit Shrewd Operator, who will have to save enough energy to hold off Celluloid Hero's stablemate, King A.J., in the later stages.

* Hawthorne has announced that post time for the rest of the meet will be 1:05, moved up from 1:20.