11/13/2002 12:00AM

Hawthorne track report

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The Hawthorne main track's bias toward speed was never more evident than on Illinois Festival of Racing Day last Saturday. Six of the eight dirt races were won by horses who were on the lead, or within a half-length of it, after the opening quarter-mile. (One winner was disqualified.)

Less than 24 hours later, though, the main track was bias-free for Sunday's program. Only two of the nine winners led throughout, while the rest enjoyed midpack stalking trips or came from well off the pace.

While the track did change on Sunday, what didn't was the success of longshots. Four of the nine winners paid $12 or more, including $89 winner Sterna in the day's eighth race.

Chalk players were comforted by the fact that three favorites did win, so at least favorites won at the standard 33-percent clip. Favorites have been winning at a rate well below the average the first two weeks of the meet.

* No major stakes are scheduled for the next four weeks at Hawthorne, but several overnight stakes will be offered, beginning with Saturday's $40,000 Crafty Drone for older horses at five furlongs on the turf.