10/06/2005 11:00PM

The king of comebacks keeps chugging along


STICKNEY, Ill. - David Lopez, all 107 pounds of him, was in a blue terry-cloth robe at noon Friday, hanging out in the Hawthorne jockeys' room, waiting for the second part of his workday to begin.

Lopez, who worked construction and other such jobs after college, started breezing horses three years ago. He launched his career as a race rider at the end of the Arlington meet and rode his first career winner here Thursday, guiding Liven on a Prayer to victory in the third race.

Lopez is 24, smiling, pleasant, seemingly content in the first phase of what he hopes will be a long career. And as for that, Lopez needed only to look eight lengths behind him after crossing the wire first for the first time Thursday. There came Randy Meier, 27 years Lopez's senior and back again from still another injury. Besides winning two Hawthorne Gold Cups and countless other big races on the Chicago circuit, as well as a riding title here at Hawthorne just two years ago, Meier might be best known as the guy who keeps getting conked in racing accidents, and keeps coming back for more, even at age 51.

"I don't know, I feel pretty good," Meier said. "I could go four or five more years."

The most recent injury, sustained during the Arlington meet, was a broken fibula. "Actually pretty minor," was how Meier described it.

"It still is a little sore every now and then," he said. "I don't have too much of a problem, other than pulling a couple pounds. I was in the box earlier, and I don't usually have to do it. Five out of the last six years, I've had to get fit and come back again. Since December of '99, I broke two legs and a wrist, my neck the next year. I had a collapsed lung and two broken ribs, a broken humerus, collarbone, then this leg."

Lopez, a former wrestler raised in suburban San Diego, is so far unscarred, but he said he would not mind being in Meier's shoes a few decades from now.

"Oh yeah, I hope I'm still doing it then," Lopez said. "I really love this. This is the first job I've had where I get up in the morning and really look forward to coming to work."

Original Spin works before start of races

Hawthorne is not awash in horses pointing for Breeders' Cup races, so it seems okay to make an exception for Original Spin, who has been doing her breezing right before the races start in the afternoon, rather than during regular morning training hours. Last Saturday, she worked by herself; Friday, she went with two stablemates, breaking off last and splitting horses in midstretch on her way to a work officially recorded as five furlongs in 59.60 seconds. Original Spin, the undefeated winner of the Arlington-Washington Lassie, was timed in 1:12.80 for six furlongs, and was ridden out hard past the wire. Twenty minutes later, the day's first race went in 1:13.77 for six furlongs.

Jockey Jesse Campbell had to take a strong hold of Original Spin, who was eager to go off with her stablemates through a fast early pace. But Campbell eventually got her back, and Original Spin finished up pretty well.

"The early fractions were a little fast, but that's just the way it worked out," said trainer Tony Mitchell. "I wanted to get a good work and make her blow, and that's what she did. So we've got one more work here, an easy one, and then one at Belmont."

Nicole's Dream comes out of race sore

Nicole's Dream suffered a muscle pull when she was beaten by a nose at odds of 2-5 last weekend in the $40,000 Majorette Stakes at Louisiana Downs, according to trainer Larry Rivelli.

"She just spun her wheels coming out of the gate. E.T. said she never got a hold of the track," he said, referring to jockey E.T. Baird.

Rivelli said Nicole's Dream was "a little sore in behind" coming out of the race, but that she was scheduled to return to the racetrack Saturday for an easy jog with a pony. Rivelli said he expected Nicole's Dream to recover quickly, and believes she still will make a scheduled start in mid-December in a lucrative five-furlong turf sprint in Hong Kong.

"I don't think this is too much of a concern, but we're going to take all precautionary measures to get where we want to go," Rivelli said.

* The Sunday feature here, race 4, is a second-level filly-and-mare Illinois-bred allowance at 1 1/16 miles on dirt. And it's a pretty good one, too. The race should come down to U R Loved, Capistrano, or Modjadji.