03/01/2010 12:00AM

Lakeaway in a familiar spot

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STICKNEY, Ill. - The thing with an allowance horse climbing up the ladder is this: You never really know if an animal who just cleared one allowance condition is good enough to step up in class and win again.

Well, most of the time you don't know that. Lakeaway's case is entirely different.

On Jan. 2 at Hawthorne, Lakeaway won a second-level, two-turn allowance race. She's right back in at the same class level and distance at Hawthorne on Tuesday, and obviously merits horse-to-beat status against seven rivals in the featured eighth race.

Open, higher-level allowance races in Chicago often need a boost if they are to fill. Consequently, a couple years ago, racing secretaries here began writing conditions of second-, third-, and fourth-level allowance races so that wins in Illinois-bred competition didn't count against a horse's open-allowance eligibility.

Enter Lakeaway. Back in 2008, Lakeaway won 3 of her first 5 career starts - a maiden score, and wins in entry- and second-level allowance races. All those victories came in competitions restricted to Illinois-breds. Last June, Lakeaway won a fourth race, this time for a $45,000 claiming price at Arlington. So, even with four career wins, Lakeaway was eligible to that open second-level allowance race Jan. 2 at Hawthorne. She won it, but that made only one win in open allowance competition, meaning Lakeaway is still eligible for a second-level-allowance.

It seems almost unfair - but Lakeaway, a 5-year-old Team Block homebred, still has to go out and get the job done. There doesn't appear to be a surplus of early speed in the Tuesday feature, and that is a negative for Lakeaway, who settles and makes one big run. In her January victory she closed into a 48-second half-mile split and drew away by almost two, but if the half-mile pace comes up to 49 seconds or slower, Lakeaway could be in trouble.

Trainer Christine Janks entered two in the race, with Jitterbug Blues apparently farther along in her training than Pathway. Pathway might be the more talented horse, but she has posted just one work for her 2010 debut. Jitterbug Blues, who hasn't raced since May, was breezing at a Florida training center in January, and has logged 17 furlongs worth of work in three drills since coming to Chicago. She's the horse who might pose the strongest challenge to Lakeaway.