10/28/2004 12:00AM

Illinois-breds look for open success


STICKNEY, Ill. - King Magic had to make the transition three races ago. Shaitan is making the jump on Saturday. Both are Illinois-breds who have run out of statebred restricted allowance conditions, and are trying to prove they fit with open company. They're among the turf horses entered in Hawthorne's featured eighth race Saturday, a third-level allowance with a $35,000 claiming option and a full field of 12.

And both have a chance at a price. King Magic came back from a seven-month layoff three weeks ago, finishing a flat eighth at this same class level, but it was a case of a horse simply being short.

"He's a funny horse," said trainer Tony Mitchell. "The beginning of this year, when he came back from Aiken [S.C.], I thought I had enough in him, and it turned out I didn't. Sure enough, the same thing just happened again."

King Magic has started only twice in 2004, and his last victory was an explosive statebred allowance win over this turf course about a year ago. A similar effort Saturday would put him in the hunt.

As for Shaitan, he won a second-level statebred allowance by just a neck last time out, but the race unfolded unusually, with Shaitan racing from far behind a lightning pace. Give him credit for finding a way to get up.

"I just want to see where I am with him, if he fits with open," said trainer Richie Scherer. "I do think he can step it up a level."

Shaitan is a 4-year-old who only began his career earlier this season, but he has made rapid progress since Scherer switched him from dirt to turf. Even so, he needs a career-best effort to beat the likes of Al's Dearly Bred and Lacer, the one-two finishers in a race like this one here Oct. 9.

Al's Dearly Bred has lost a step or two at age 7, but trainer Hugh Robertson found the horse's level when he dropped him down to the $35,000 claiming ranks last out. Al's Dearly Bred came up the rail under Seth Martinez and beat Lacer by a half-length.

Also in with a chance is Image, who has faced higher-quality horses in his recent races, and who tried to rally into a slow pace in his last start. Some speed has been entered in Saturday's race, and Image, as well as the other closers, should get a decent setup.