04/19/2007 11:00PM

Hawley considers Dawn After Dawn live longshot

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Wes Hawley will have one of the longest shots in the field when the 133rd Kentucky Oaks is run May 4 at Churchill Downs. Hawley, 44, is not drawing inspiration from the fact that the Oaks was captured last year by the longest-priced winner in race history - Lemons Forever, a 47-1 shot - but from a source far more personal.

Dawn After Dawn ran third at 54-1 in her last race, the April 7 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. If Dawn After Dawn is able to pull off an Oaks stunner for a second straight year, Hawley no doubt will dedicate the greatest victory of his career to his wife, Glenda, who died last July from ovarian cancer.

Hawley will be joined by their two teenage sons when Dawn After Dawn is part of what is shaping up as a big field for the $500,000 Oaks. Although Dawn After Dawn, a Florida-bred owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, is winless in five stakes tries, she has fared respectably in every race, and Hawley is very confident she can win.

"All of her races, she's run extremely well, and she really exploded in the Ashland," said Hawley. "She's always done everything we've asked her to do. She eats good, trains good, and has run against some of the best fillies around."

Dawn After Dawn is among the seven horses that Hawley trains at the Trackside training center near Louisville. The stable will move to Churchill later this week and remain there through the spring meet.

Hawley grew up in New Mexico, where his stepfather was a trainer. Hawley said he "always wanted to be in racing" and that his late wife enjoyed the game immensely, too.

"She was the best handicapper I ever saw, and a great bettor, too," he said. "If this filly wins the Oaks, I'm sure she would've found a way to make a big score on it."

Full field likely for Oaks

Rags to Riches, who closed as a strong favorite last weekend in the third and final pool of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, is among the prospective Oaks fillies that Churchill officials update on a day-to-day basis.

As many as 14 horses can start in the Oaks, with starting preference determined by graded earnings. In order of highest earners, Churchill's latest list of Oaks probables as of Friday was: Octave, Cotton Blossom, Rags to Riches, Mistical Plan, Cash Included, High Heels, High Again, Baroness Thatcher, Sealy Hill, Dawn After Dawn, Silver Knockers, Swift Temper, Grace Happens, Autobahn Girl, and Tough Tiz's Sis.

Lady of Venice tries to follow stable's trend

The latest member of what might fairly be called the Patrick Biancone Comeback Squad makes her seasonal debut Sunday when Lady of Venice runs as a heavy favorite in the fourth race at Keeneland, a $66,000 classified allowance at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Lady of Venice, now 4, was a highly impressive winner of the Appalachian Stakes in her North American debut at Keeneland last April, then was equally dominant in winning the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs. She then ran twice at Saratoga, finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Diana, then second on Aug. 16 in the Grade 2 Lake Placid. She has not raced since.

"Nothing was wrong," Biancone said. "I only wanted to give her time."

Lady of Venice will try to follow in the footsteps of Biancone stablemates Stream Cat, Asi Siempre, and Danzon, all of whom are stakes winners who have won races at the Keeneland spring meet following layoffs.

"Hopefully Lady of Venice will run as well as they did," said Biancone.

* Friday was a memorable day for Merrill Scherer. The veteran trainer sent out back-to-back winners, taking the second race with Kindling ($6.40) and the third with Classic Tiara ($13.60). Both winners were ridden by Jesus Castanon.

* After Sunday, the final stretch of the 15-day Keeneland meet begins Wednesday with the Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for fillies and mares. Two other Grade 3 races conclude the meet: the $150,000 Ben Ali on Thursday, and the $200,000 Elkhorn Stakes on Friday.

* Churchill Downs opens its spring meet Saturday with the Derby Trial.