10/22/2003 11:00PM

Lacer hopes for reversal of fortune

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CHICAGO - With a little pace help and a lot of luck, the 4-year-old colt Lacer could be having a tremendous season. But so far he has received neither.

Checked repeatedly in his most recent start and caught behind false paces in his previous two, Lacer enters Saturday's Hawthorne feature riding a three-race streak of misfortune. Since a full gate of 12 horses was entered to run in this third-level allowance (with a $35,000 claiming option) at one mile on grass, Lacer has a much better chance of settling in behind honest fractions this time. But in such a bulky field, he still needs better racing luck.

The field size of the feature is par for Saturday's card, which has the big fields bettors typically require to find value. Well over 100 horses are scheduled to start in 10 races.

Lacer is hardly the only place to turn in the feature. Noble Ruler might have won his most recent race - his first start for owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Wayne Catalano - with a more favorable trip. Garesche turned in some solid grass miles this season, and Distorted Power enters this start with a three-race winning streak.

A 6-year-old half-brother to War Emblem, Distorted Power is owned by his breeder, Russell Reineman, and resides in the barn of War Emblem's first trainer, Bobby Springer. Distorted Power muddled through a couple of allowance conditions in 2000 and 2001 before settling into the mid-level claiming ranks. He has stayed there since. Springer got Distorted Power right in midsummer and won a $20,000 claimer with him Aug. 13. He then boosted Distorted Power up to the $35,000 level, where he has won twice more. His rivals Saturday aren't significantly tougher than the ones he has beaten recently, and Distorted Power has a decent chance to win his fourth straight.

But Lacer remains the pick. He was last at the second call of a Sept. 18 optional claimer at Arlington, where the front-runners dawdled through a half-mile in 50 seconds and six furlongs in 1:15. The race became a dash to the wire, but Lacer spent as much time steadying as he did dashing. He managed to finish second, beaten a neck. With just four starts this season, and a fourth to Tap the Admiral last fall in the $100,000 John Henry, Lacer remains on track for a breakthrough performance.

A touch of good fortune would help bring it forth.