03/05/2009 1:00AM

Late start shouldn't hamper Karlsson


STICKNEY, Ill. - For most parties involved, opening day of the spring meet at Hawthorne Race Course was to come Friday. But Inez Karlsson will have to wait.

Karlsson won the Hawthorne riding title at the fall-winter meet that concluded in January, and not long after that, she nearly won the Eclipse Award as the leading apprentice rider of 2008, coming in second behind Paco Lopez in that category. Her winter since then, however, has been quiet, at least on the horse front. Karlsson was at Gulfstream Park for a while, but never intended to dive fully into the jockey colony there and rode just 14 horses. Then came a trip home to Sweden - her first such journey in two years - to visit family and keep on paperwork to maintain her status as a legal foreign worker in the United States.

But though she arrived back at Hawthorne early this week, Karlsson will have to spend opening weekend as a spectator as she serves out a three-day suspension handed down at the previous Hawthorne meet.

In the end, that should not have dire consequences on Karlsson's business this spring, which figures to be strong even though she has lost her apprentice allowance and the extra boost that comes with it.

"Now, I have to show everyone I can make it without having the bug," Karlsson said Wednesday morning as she walked the length of the Hawthorne backstretch on the way to work a horse for trainer Frank Kirby after breezing one for trainer Roger Brueggemann. And therein is one reason Karlsson should continue doing well. While consistently improving during races in the afternoon, she has continued working constantly in the morning, building good relationships with a vast number of local outfits. Her agent, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, is among the best on the circuit, and there seems to be no reason why Karlsson's 2008 success can't carry into 2009 - five extra pounds or not.

Janks entry tops Merry Colleen

As for all those Christine Janks-trained Illinois-bred stakes mares that were going to be retired and bred this winter? Well, not so fast.

The plan to make sprinter Pretty Jenny a broodmare is still on course, Janks said Thursday from her farm in Florida; Pretty Jenny was to be bred Friday. But the route horse Stop a Train has been breezing and may race a couple of times while in foal - or even while not in foal - this spring.

Modjadji also has gotten back to work rather than getting pregnant, and she was entered in the $50,000 Merry Colleen on Saturday at Hawthorne along with the Janks-trained Nicks, who wound up being named Illinois' champion older-female sprinter of 2008 on the strength of a strong fall campaign.

The Nicks-Modjadji coupled entry should wind up being favored in the Merry Colleen, a six-furlong overnight sprint race. Seven-year-old Modjadji has had her moments during a long and consistently productive career, but 5-year-old Nicks is the comer. She didn't get her 2008 season started until August, but quickly made up for lost time, winning four straight races - including the $89,000 Powerless Handicap last fall at Hawthorne - after losing her seasonal debut.

"I would've liked to have had one more work in her," said Janks, who has been breezing her stock at a Florida training center. "Then again, this is a good spot, and there aren't too many of them, so she needs to run."

There are other possibilities in the Merry Colleen. Big Lou might be the controlling speed from an inside draw, while Mongoose Gold won her final start before the local winter break in fairly impressive fashion.

Robertson to stable 40 in Chicago

Spotted along the rail watching horses train Wednesday morning was Hugh Robertson, a Chicago stalwart in general, but not so much this time of year. Robertson has kept a winter string at Oaklawn Park or Fair Grounds the last several seasons, but will have a stronger presence at the Hawthorne spring meet than in recent years, he said. By the weekend, Robertson should have 40 horses stabled here.

Not among them is Wildeyedsouthernboy, an Illinois-bred 4-year-old who looked like a stakes-level talent during the second half of 2008. Wildeyedsouthernboy is training at Oaklawn and is likely to make his first start of the year there before shipping north, Robertson said.

* Beginning March 1, toe grabs and all other traction devices affixed to the front shoes of horses are banned in Illinois, the Illinois Racing Board announced this week. Illinois is following a national trend to suspend the use of toe grabs, which are thought to make horses more prone to leg injuries in certain situations.