03/01/2007 12:00AM

Locals sharper than invader


CHICAGO - Is this the beginning of the Bobby Ranwick Jr. era at Hawthorne Race Course? Quite possibly not, since Mr. Ranwick started all of 33 horses during the entire 2006 season, and posted just three wins all year. So, how weird is it that the Ranwick stable, which does not regularly race in Chicago, has horses for four of the nine races on Saturday's card?

The Ranwick invasion - not to be confused with the British invasion - begins in race 1, continues with starters in the third and the fifth, and culminates in the featured eighth race, in which Ranwick entered Count on My Word. Not a bad horse, either.

Count on My Word has taken advantage of his Ohio-bred status to bankroll more than $224,000 in a 38-start career, and when last seen back on Nov. 27 he was winning an open allowance race at Mountaineer Park over eight rivals. Saturday, in a third-level allowance race with a $40,000 claiming option carded for one mile and 70 yards, Count on My Word will face seven others, presuming all that entered start.

But a glance at Count on My Word's work tab, which shows only one slow three-furlong breeze since his late-November victory, suggests that the Ranwick barn's foray into the Hawthorne feature may amount only to a curiosity, rather than a triumph. More aggressively trained toward this race are several local horses, like Indian Moonshine, Le Jester, Awesomewithbroads, Battle Tank, and Almagnus.

Zippy Slew, who got very good early in Hawthorne's fall meet, shows a lighter breeze schedule. Garesche possesses a recency edge, having raced Feb. 9 at Oaklawn, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Garesche had shown good progress in two starts here last winter after a long layoff, but finished a distant fifth in Arkansas.

Indian Moonshine came to life late last season, twice finishing second in $25,000 claimers before trainer Richard Hazelton gave him a timely bump into an Illinois-bred second-level allowance race on Dec. 15. Indian Moonshine won by more than three lengths, and worked three times in February for his first start as a 4-year-old Saturday. And so far, no trainer has sent out more live horses at Hawthorne than Hazelton, who has won with 3 of his first 6 starters, adding on a place and a show to his early-meet total.

Almagnus also had a good late autumn run, winning 2 of his last 3 starts in 2006. He has posted four recent works for trainer Brian Williamson training up to his 2007 debut, but will have to work out a trip from a wide draw.