04/10/2007 11:00PM

Lord of the Game progressing


CHICAGO - Lord of the Game, who has to rank among the best-ever $10,000 claims, is making progress in his comeback attempt, and might be ready to race this summer at Arlington Park, trainer Tom Tomillo said Wednesday.

Lord of the Game, who wintered at Fair Grounds, has been galloping regularly since late fall and has posted two three-furlong workouts, one in New Orleans, the most recent on March 31 at Hawthorne. A 6-year-old gelding, Lord of the Game hasn't started since late October 2005, when he finished sixth in the Fayette Handicap at Keeneland. Lord of the Game only ran in that race after he was excluded from an oversubscribed edition of the Breeders' Cup Classic, held that fall at Belmont Park.

Denied a spot in the Breeders' Cup, Lord of the Game was shipped by van from New York to Kentucky, and came out of the worst start of his career with a recurrence of a tendon problem that originally landed him in the Tomillo barn. Lord of the Game is by Saint Ballado and has a high-end pedigree, but started his career on Dec. 31, 2004 at Hawthorne in a $10,000 maiden claimer because of tendon problems. Tomillo and owner Bill Slevin claimed him out of that race, which Lord of the Game won by almost 23 lengths, and he went on to win more than $500,000 and seven more races.

Lord of the Game had stem cell surgery on the tendon last year, and it took time, Tomillo said, just to get him back in proper shape for training.

"He's not the type of horse you can push on," Tomillo said.

The problem area of Lord of the Game's leg was examined about two weeks ago and has progressed well, Tomillo said.

"I'm just hoping he comes back good enough to at least be a decent horse," said Tomillo, "Right now he's been perfect, knock on wood."

Pair of locals will run at Keeneland

Trainer Frank Kirby has a couple Hawthorne-based horses to send to the Keeneland meet. The 3-year-old filly Ciao will race in a grass stakes there on April 22, the $100,000 Appalachian, while Lord Carmen could make his 2007 debut in a stakes or allowance spot, Kirby said this week.

Ciao has started only in two-turn turf races, and after narrowly losing her career debut last fall, won a Hawthorne maiden race and the Caressing Stakes at Churchill to conclude her 2-year-old season. She has posted five published works at Hawthorne since early March, and was timed in a bullet 1:14.40 for a six-furlong gate work on Monday.

"She kind of surprises me in that she's pretty good on dirt," Kirby said. "She worked with another horse the other day - left her in midstretch pretty good."

Lord Carmen, who may be best over 1 1/2 miles on turf, missed by a nose in the Kentucky Cup Turf last fall at Kentucky Downs, and has an even better looking Hawthorne work tab than Ciao.

Caruso rides golden rail

Count trainer Richard Hazelton among those who believe the rail was golden on Illinois Derby Day. Hazelton benefited directly from last Saturday's inside bias. Caruso, making his first start of the season, hugged the fence all the way around and won the Lost Code Stakes by almost two lengths, that after giving up an early lead in upper stretch.

"I thought he was beat," Hazelton said. "He might've won because he was in the 1 hole - everything was winning from the rail."

Illinois-bred Caruso now has won 4 of his 5 starts, his lone loss having come in his only try around two turns. Hazelton plans to keep Caruso with Illinois-breds his next two starts - the first on April 28, when Hawthorne hosts six statebred-restricted stakes, the second in Arlington's Prairie State Festival in June - before considering another try against open company.

Field sizes encouraging

Friday's feature race may be the fourth, for second-level Illinois-bred route horses, or the eighth, for entry-level allowance sprinters, but of potentially greater importance is the fact that Friday's races filled so well when they were drawn Wednesday.

The spring meet has suffered from small field size, but Friday's nine-race program drew 78 entries for an average of close to nine horses per race, an excellent number for a weekday card. No race has fewer than seven entries, and the entry-level allowance drew 10 prospective starters.