10/31/2007 11:00PM

Janks running numbers in festival

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Hawthorne Race Course has long billed its autumn statebred stakes extravaganza the Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing, though Georgeff, the one-time Chicago announcer, lives in Alabama and hasn't attended his day in years. This year, the day may turn into the Christine Janks festival of racing, since Janks entered seven horses in four of the six $100,000 Illinois-bred stakes on Saturday.

Two are in the six-furlong Lightning Jet Handicap, which features a showdown among the Janks pair of High Expectations and Mighty Rule, and the brilliant Shrewd Operator.

Where Janks is loaded Saturday, trainer Chris Block is surprisingly light, with only one stakes entrant. But his horse, Shrewd Operator, might be the most talented horse racing Saturday.

A 3-year-old Team Block homebred, Shrewd Operator had the career debut of the Chicago racing year, winning an open maiden race Aug. 4 at Arlington by eight lengths with a six-furlong time of 1:08 and change. The race's Beyer Speed Figure, 99, is about as good as it gets for a first-timer, and Shrewd Operator backed up the win with a 5 1/2-length entry-level allowance victory five weeks later. Equally strong was a third-place finish Oct. 13 at Keeneland in the Perryville Stakes, where Shrewd Operator set a fast pace from the fence and held on for third on a Keeneland Polytrack generally unkind to inside speed.

Shrewd Operator's lone work between starts, a bullet half-mile drill here Sunday, suggests he can do just as well in his dirt debut. "He worked well the other day," said Block. "He might be better on Polytrack. We'll have to see."

Shrewd Operator, a 3-year-old, gets an eight pound weight break from 10-time winner High Expectations, a potentially major spread. "I'm not a big believer in weight, but that's a lot to carry," Janks said.

Only two of High Expectations's wins have come at Hawthorne, but he won an Illinois-bred stakes here in the spring.

Mighty Rule has finished first or second in 9 of his 11 starts, and has faced open company much of this year. Saturday, he carries 11 pounds less than High Expectations, which may put the two on even terms.