03/12/2007 11:00PM

Le Jester fits even on rise


CHICAGO - Trainer Roger Brueggemann has shot to the top of the Hawthorne standings after three weeks of racing this year - and his run may not be over yet.

Team Brueggemann has horses entered in three races on Hawthorne's nine-race Thursday program: Jaygar Dancer looks extremely live in race 3, a $14,000 claimer; All A's is an obvious contender in race 4, a conditioned claiming race; and Le Jester will shoot for his second win of the young Chicago season in the featured fifth race, a fourth-level route allowance race also open to $60,000 claimers.

Le Jester has historically been much more of a $25,000 claiming type - winning races on fast dirt, in mud, and on the turf - but he won by six lengths March 3 for a $40,000 claiming price in a race also open to third-level allowance horses, and, as Brueggemann succinctly put it last week, "anything can happen here in the spring."

That being the case, the idea of Le Jester winning for a $60,000 claiming price on Thursday falls well within the realm of the possible, but the horse doesn't figure to get the golden trip he fell into two weeks ago. There, Le Jester made an easy lead while setting a slow pace, but on Thursday he has at least one major pace rival in Holy City, who is drawn on the fence, one stall inside Le Jester.

Last year, Holy City posted four wins, three of them at Hawthorne. He was on again, off again last fall and winter, hitting a peak with a front-running third-level allowance victory on Dec. 28. He faded to eighth of nine on Feb. 17 in the Dust Commander Stakes over Turfway Park's Polytrack, but he should rebound Thursday.

The off-the-pace threats include Come on Chas and Air Academy, who last met in an off-the-turf overnight stakes last summer at Arlington, a race that Come on Chas won by eight lengths. But Come on Chas regressed after the big win and took three bad losses before finding the winner's circle for a $32,000 claiming price in a Jan. 9 race at Tampa. Come on Chas then was second for a $60,000 price in a Gulfstream optional claimer, and second Feb. 23 in an open allowance race at Charles Town. Fans and bettors decrying the current short fields at Hawthorne will take note that things are tough all over: That Charles Town race had just two horses besides Come on Chas.