10/19/2006 11:00PM

Lady Lionel edge, but only on turf


CHICAGO - The National Weather Service has issued a reminder that the book has nearly closed on Chicago's 2006 grass-racing season: There's snow in the forecast for Saturday night, though Hawthorne, off the turf already twice this racing week, will try to stage a Sunday feature on its grass course.

In fact, Hawthorne plans to card turf racing through Thanksgiving. Last year the course made it two weeks into November, and the grass at this moment doesn't have the totally chewed-up appearance of a late-fall turf course.

"We've had a lot of rain this year, and we've been off the turf a lot, so it's actually in better shape," said Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller.

With rain in the forecast Saturday before the wintry-mix prediction Saturday night, Sunday's featured sixth race could easily wind up on the main track, which would be too bad, since the race has some depth and quality. Carded for 1 1/16 miles for female $40,000 claimers or third-level allowance horses, the feature drew a 10-horse field headed by the second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-place finishers in an Oct. 1 grass race at this class level.

Pimentinha finished second in that common last start, two lengths ahead of third-place Lady Lionel, but if the race stays on grass, Lady Lionel gets the nod on top.

While Pimentinha enjoyed an ideal mid-pack trip in her first start after being claimed from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott by trainer Leo Gabriel and Diamond Racing Inc., Lady Lionel was forced by post position 10 to drop back to last in the early going, some 15 lengths behind the leaders. From there, she had to make one run to reach contention, another in the stretch, and she finished well to beat all but the top two.

Lady Lionel finished a head in front of Meadow Skippin, who broke from post 12 and also ran a creditable race in defeat. Pimentinha may be favored, but on form seems susceptible to regression this Sunday.

The horse for the main track might be Jennie R., even though she's raced almost exclusively on turf the last two years. Trainer Michelle Boyce moved Jennie R. to the main track on Oct. 5, and she won comfortably over second-level allowance foes, prompting Boyce to acknowledge that Jennie R. might be better on dirt after all.

Thursday highlights

Some bits and pieces of note from Thursday's Hawthorne program.

Race 2, an $18,000 claimer, marked the end of a long, long drought for Colorful Tour, once among the best Illinois-breds in training. Colorful Tour, a 7-year-old pinto-shaped horse with unusual chestnut-and-white coloring, didn't make a start between Dec. 18, 2004 and this past April, and until his victory Thursday, hadn't won since Dec. 4, 2004. That's a far cry from the early years of Colorful Tour's career. Bred by Noel Hickey's Irish Acres Farm, and trained by Hickey or one of his surrogates, Colorful Tour won 5 of his first 8 starts, and 10 of his first 16, winning Illinois-bred and open stakes races in Chicago and Arkansas before beginning a long slide in the second half of 2004.

Count Sheep won race 3, Tuffted captured race 4, and these two races were full of coincidences. Both Count Sheep and Tuffted have the same dam, Cushion, and both were trained by Brian Williamson until recent claims. Williamson, moreover, sent out the beaten favorite in both races, En Trance in the third, Lampoon in the fourth. Williamson's day did end on a brighter note, a win by Cape Fox in the nightcap.

* With wet conditions finally past, workers were out in force Friday at Hawthorne, where 152 horses had timed breezes. Among them were Coach Jimi Lee (four furlongs in 49 seconds), who could race next in the De Francis Dash, and Fort Prado (five furlongs in 1:03.40), who is being pointed toward the Nov. 3 River City Handicap at Churchill.