05/03/2005 11:00PM

Home of Stars may try big boys


STICKNEY, Ill. - The sharp, undefeated winners of Illinois-bred 3-year-old sprint stakes last Saturday both emerged from their race in good physical condition. Top Kick, who beat males in the Land of Lincoln, and Pretty Jenny, who won the Lady Hallie for 3-year-old fillies, both can come back in second-level statebred allowance races if their connections desire.

Home of Stars, who impressively won the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap on Saturday, may chase bigger game.

Home of Stars, trainer Bobby Springer said, might run back in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hanshin Cup on May 28 at Arlington.

"He came out of the race wonderful," Springer said Wednesday. "There are a lot of spots for him. He's good enough for open stakes, I think, but we can always come back to Illinois-breds."

And that might be precisely the plan. If Home of Stars continues to thrive, he could follow up the Hanshin with a start in the Cardinal Handicap, an Illinois-bred turf stakes June 25 at Arlington.

Home of Stars, who squeezed through a hole on the rail and won going away Saturday, has won four times on dirt and twice on grass. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 96 in the Milwaukee Avenue.

Top Kick raced Saturday only a week after his career debut, and he pulled a $20 upset over heavily favored Humor at Last in the Land of Lincoln. The busy schedule didn't faze Top Kick, who was "bucking and playing three days after he ran," according to his trainer, co-owner, and breeder, Paul Darjean.

"He's ready to go again," Darjean said Wednesday. "He'll go back to the track tomorrow."

There is a chance Top Kick could change hands before he races again, but if Darjean continues to campaign him, Top Kick could start next in an Illinois-bred allowance race before coming back in the one-mile Springfield Stakes on the June 25 Illinois-bred day.

June 25 also would be a logical goal for Pretty Jenny, who like Top Kick led all the way to win her Saturday stakes with only a debut win under her belt.

"I never go from a maiden win to a stakes, but it was hard to pass this spot up," trainer Christine Janks said. "I didn't think she'd be green."

Sharp return for Fort Prado

A day after the six Illinois-bred stakes, one of the top Illinois-bred grass horses made a splashy return to the races. Fort Prado, who had been off since Dec. 11, won a third-level turf allowance, bursting to the lead with a quick turn move and coasting through the stretch to score a three-length victory against overmatched third-level allowance horses.

"That was exactly what I was looking for," said trainer Chris Block. "That was my main goal, to get this race into him."

Grand Council lone early speed

Last year, Grand Council was a classic front-runner, blazing to the lead but offering scant resistance when challenged in the stretch. But the horse has learned something, and four races ago, Grand Council started rating and finishing, a style that produced a second, a third, and finally a good entry-level allowance win here March 19.

A month later, Grand Council encountered a problem opposite his former struggles, when he broke a step slowly from an outside post and failed to establish good stalking position, winding up wide on the turn and fourth of 10 at the finish. In Friday's featured fourth race at Hawthorne, a second-level sprint allowance, Grand Council would be well served by a return to his front-running ways. There are but six horses in the race, and none of them save Grand Council has real early speed. Should he cruise through a soft opening half-mile on the lead and in the clear, Grand Council might be long gone.

Those trying to catch him will be Sampson's Son, one of trainer Steve Hobby's first starters of the Chicago season, and Boots Are Walking, who finished a couple lengths in front of Grand Council in their common recent race.

* Friday's card begins the final week of the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne meet. The Arlington season gets under way next Friday.