04/02/2009 11:00PM

Hurta proves lightning can strike twice


STICKNEY, Ill. - Lord of the Game seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime claim. Trainer Tom Tomillo and owner Bill Slevin plucked him out of a $10,000 maiden claimer in his career debut at Hawthorne on Dec.o31, 2004, and Lord of the Game went on to win two graded stakes and more than a half-million dollars. The Tomillo barn has done it again with Hurta, although he has not yet hit Lord of the Game territory.

Last August at Arlington, Tomillo and owner Louis Clarizio claimed Hurta for $10,000 out of his career debut. Unlike Lord of the Game, Hurta did not start winning right away, but after a pair of thirds and a pair of sixths on turf and Polytrack, Hurta got onto the Hawthorne dirt track, and he has not lost since. A sharp maiden winner last Nov. 14, Hurta then ran through two allowance conditions, winning those three starts by a combined 27 lengths or so. And back for the start of his 2009 campaign, Hurta looked just as good on March 27, winning a third-level allowance by five lengths. Most impressively, Hurta won last week going six furlongs, which, based on the route-suited way of going he displayed last season, seemed like a distance too short for him.

"I didn't think he'd win going three-quarters," said Tomillo's assistant trainer, Lalo Rodriguez. "He surprised me. Not just that he won, but he was laying third and was so strong. I think he's getting better and better."

In years past, Hurta would have been a prime candidate for the National Jockey Club Handicap - recently renamed the Bill Hartack Memorial - Chicago's spring two-turn handicap for older horses. But the Hartack was moved to autumn and switched to turf this year, and Hurta will have to come back in a $50,000 overnight stakes on April 11. Rodriguez, for one, expects continued improvement.

"He's training so good, and he's like a pony," Rodriguez said. "Whatever you do with him, he's so quiet."

Though in his races, Hurta has been making plenty of noise.

Amazing Results preps for return

Illinois Derby hopeful Giant Oak had an easy morning training Friday at Hawthorne, but things were more serious this week for another stakes horse in the stable of trainer Chris Block, as Amazing Results had his second timed workout of the year on Thursday, going five furlongs in 1:01.

Amazing Results was named Illinois horse of the year for 2008 on the strength of a four-win campaign worth more than $219,336 in earnings. Amazing Results ran well on both turf and Polytrack, nearly winning the Grade 3 Perryville last fall at Keeneland, but could make his first dirt start before the end of this meet, Block said.

"He's doing well. There's an outside chance he could run in the sprint race on Illinois Day," said Block, referring to the slate of Illinois-bred stakes here April 25.

Block sent out an impressive maiden winner named Marilyn's Guy on March 23. Making his third career start, and second going two turns, Marilyn's Guy won by almost 14 lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

"I sent him to Keeneland to work him over the Poly, and there's a turf race down there for him," said Block. "We need to figure out whether he needs to be at Arlington this summer, or if he needs to go somewhere where there's dirt. He's about 17 hands, but he's somewhat agile for a horse that big."

Thursday, the Block-trained Runningatem won her second allowance race of this meet, rallying nicely to beat second-level allowance horses by four lengths. There's a chance Runningatem will return in time for an Illinois-bred sprint stakes later this month, but Block said he also hopes to have Secret Kin ready for the filly-and-mare Illinois-bred race.

Kirby retains hot hand

In kind of a flash, trainer Frank Kirby has opened a huge lead in the Hawthorne trainer standings. Kirby started the meet slowly, winning with just 2 of his first 18 starters here, but he got hot in mid-March, and has not slowed down yet. Through half of Friday's card, Kirby had 21 winners from 107 starters, 12 more victories than Mike Reavis, who sits second in the standings. Kirby also is sending out far more runners than anyone else here, with more than double the second-highest total at the meet.

On the jockey side, Tim Thornton has bounced back nicely from a mildly disappointing fall-winter meet here, and had a 28-20 lead over Inez Karlsson through part of Friday's card. Three riders - Lyndie Wade, Tanner Riggs, and Eddie Perez - have 17 wins. The local jockey colony will get much deeper in the next couple weeks, when Chris Emigh and Eddie Razo return from a winter at Oaklawn Park, and Jesse Campbell begins riding here after wintering at Fair Grounds.