05/24/2001 12:00AM

Hawthorne probes failed favorite


STICKNEY, Ill. - Hawthorne Race Course earlier this week launched an internal investigation probing whether a 6-year-old mare should have been scratched from a race because of physical problems.

The mare, Tender Hearted, finished eighth, beaten 17 lengths, as the 6-5 favorite when she ran in the fourth race here last Sunday, May 20.

The Illinois Racing Board has also begun an investigation into the matter. IRB deputy director Marc Laino said, "We should be done very shortly."

Tender Hearted is owned and trained by Ronnie Andersen. Andersen ran the mare April 10 in a $10,000 claiming race, and she finished second. She was not entered again until Friday, May 18, when she showed up in a $6,000 claiming race. Because of the time between her starts, Tender Hearted was required to post a published workout before she could race here.

A dispute over whether the mare had actually worked led to her scratch by the track stewards last Friday, but Andersen entered her back in Sunday's race, a $4,000 claimer. Tender Hearted was allowed to start in that race, though an official work still does not appear on her past performances.

Jockey Chris Emigh warmed Tender Hearted up before Sunday's race, but returned the mare to the saddling enclosure during the warm-up period and declined to ride her. Ramsey Zimmerman picked up the mount at the last minute.