01/03/2008 1:00AM

Holy Thursday slight edge off second in last

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Things are looking up at Hawthorne as the weekend approaches. A cold spell that has enveloped the Eastern half of the nation, and that has brought single-digit temperatures to the Chicago area, is forecast to be gone by Saturday, though the prospect of rain still lingers. And on the racing front, the Saturday feature - a second-level allowance for Illinois-breds - attracted a competitive field, which makes for a good betting race.

The slight favorite in the 6 1/2-furlong fourth race might be Holy Thursday, who closed from last for a clear second at this level on Dec. 16.

That effort was in sharp contrast to his previous race, an open second-level allowance around two turns where Holy Thursday lost ground around the far turn and was beaten nearly 15 lengths. Holy Thursday's only other disappointing effort in 2007 occurred over a soft turf course.

Providing the fast pace that Holy Thursday needs will be Royally Robbed, who breaks from the rail, and Cockadoodle, who starts outside in the field of seven. Royally Robbed was the pacesetter in each of his last two starts, both at 1 1/16 miles, and has also shown early foot in sprint attempts. Royally Robbed won in his first route attempt, but faded when headed in deep stretch last time and should appreciate the return to a sprint.

Cockadoodle recently returned from a 2 1/2-month break to score by 2 1/4 lengths in first-level allowance company, pressing a very fast pace over a frozen Hawthorne strip. But he might regress after that career-best performance.

Holy Thursday's uncoupled stablemate from the Chris Block barn, Death Valley, is also a contender.

A confirmed front-runner earlier in his career, Death Valley has rated more kindly of late. In his most recent start, on Dec. 1, Death Valley raced in midpack, five lengths behind the leaders, and steadily rallied around the far turn, grabbing the lead at the eighth pole and drawing off to 1 3/4-length win.

Jockey Eddie Perez, who rode both Holy Thursday and Death Valley in their last start, will ride Death Valley in the first meeting between the two Saturday.