12/23/2004 12:00AM

Iceplosion set up for breakthrough


CHICAGO - By name, Iceplosion seems ideally suited to Sunday's featured seventh race at chilly Hawthorne, and on form, Iceplosion looks at least as strong.

late run has left him just short of victory in his last two starts, but come Sunday he could break through in this third-level sprint allowance with a $35,000 claiming option.

On the other hand, things haven't clicked yet for Iceplosion. At 0 for 10 on the season, Iceplosion perhaps wasn't meant to win in 2004. Sunday, in a race filled with speed elements, Iceplosion and leading rider Chris Emigh should have every chance.

The pair will break from post 3, from which ground can be saved, and though Hawthorne's racing surface often becomes a frozen, speed-promoting highway during dark December afternoons, the right closer, especially one sneaking up the rail or between horses, is capable of rallying to win.

That holds especially true in a six-furlong race with a pace battle. Three of the nine horses entered in the Sunday feature seem bound for the lead, and the one drawn farthest outside, Storm the Beach, might be most intent on getting there. When the outside speed horse forces the early pace, those inside must work to hold the coveted inside position. This is when a speed duel percolates, and this is what Iceplosion needs to score.

Iceplosion got the proper setup in a race at this class level Dec. 4, but he lost by a head to a sharp winner named Blackinton. Some handicappers will forecast regression after a pair of peak races, but trainer Charlie Livesay's stock has a way of holding their form for several races in a row.

If not Iceplosion, than perhaps another closer, Stratematic. Stratematic was third in a $25,000 claimer the last time he ran, but he was interfered with in deep stretch while making a bid between horses. Stratematic has five career wins, four over this track, and he should offer betting value while taking a step up in class.

Familiar training rivalry

The race for leading trainer is a replay of the Arlington meet, where Frank Kirby and Steve Asmussen battled into the final days, Kirby finally emerging the winner.

Through Wednesday, the two were knotted at 23 wins this meet, but while Asmussen's entries here have slowed to a trickle (he has one horse in Sunday), Kirby still is firing with both barrels (he runs four Sunday).

Meanwhile, with 21 wins, Mike Reavis has crept within range of the top pair, and like Kirby, he figures to be very active during the final days of the meet.