12/05/2001 1:00AM

Laviolette seeks elusive title


The last time Shane Laviolette was in serious contention for a riding title, he incurred one of the most wicked beats possible.

Laviolette led Mike Morgan by five winners atop the Hoosier Park standings going into the final program of the 1999 meet. Then Morgan went out and won six races while Laviolette was blanked.

"That was tough," Laviolette recalled wistfully.

Now 28, Laviolette is poised to make another serious bid for a riding title. Going into the Wednesday card at Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney, Ill., he held a 32-27 lead over Randy Meier atop the jockey standings.

The recent developments that have taken Laviolette into the upper echelon of the Chicago jockey colony probably come as little surprise to seasoned horseplayers. Laviolette, a New Orleans native who began riding in 1990, has developed into a reliable and crafty veteran whose services often are sought by many of the top local outfits. At the 103-day Arlington meet, which ended Oct. 28, he finished fourth in the standings.

Laviolette certainly has the right pedigree. He is the nephew of Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye - Laviolette's mother, Pat, is the sister of Delahoussaye's wife, Juanita - and his father, Harold, is a jockey-turned-trainer in New Orleans.

"I grew up six blocks from Jefferson Downs," said Laviolette of the defunct racetrack. "I used to ride my skateboard to the backside and catch some hots for my dad."

One of the primary reasons that Laviolette has surged to the Hawthorne lead is his close association with Tom Tomillo, whose 19 wins from 64 starters have given him a big lead in the trainer standings.

"Tommy's been on fire, and a lot of the local Illinois people have been good to me," said Laviolette. "A lot of it has to do with certain horses getting in and how hard you're willing to work."

After the Hawthorne meet ends Jan. 1, Laviolette will return to New Orleans to ride for about eight weeks at the Fair Grounds before returning to Illinois for the Sportsman's Park meet in March. Several years ago during the winter break, Laviolette went to ride at Santa Anita, where he was able to spend time with the Delahoussayes.

But for now, he is focused on winning the first riding crown of his 11-year career. He is keenly aware that Meier is hot on his trail. "It's going to be a hard job, holding him off," he said. "I hope we can do it."

Official remains in coma

Bob Carey, the longtime do-everything man at Hawthorne, remains in a medication-induced coma at nearby Loyola Medical Center after being seriously injured Nov. 12 in a fall from a ladder at his summer home in Michigan City, Ind.

Hawthorne spokesman Jimmy Miller said doctors said that Carey, 65, is able to move all extremities and has brain activity.

Carey is the brother of Hawthorne owner Tom Carey Sr. Although his official title is assistant to the president, he long has been known for taking on nearly every duty imaginable at the track, including backstretch responsibilities.

Trainer appeals disqualification

Steffanie Rakers, trainer of Willowbrook Lane, has filed a formal appeal with the Illinois Racing Board regarding the disqualification of her stable star from the feature race here Sunday.

Willowbrook Lane finished first in the $43,000 allowance race but was disqualified to second for a bumping incident in deep stretch.

* The feature race Saturday at Hawthorne is the $100,000 High Alexander Stakes for Illinois-bred 3-year-olds and up. Likely favorites in the 1 1/16-mile race are Cane Ridge, trained by Tomillo, and Stop Drop and Roll, trained by John Wainwright.