09/29/2006 12:00AM

More pace for Lady Lionel


The Arlington Park main track played fast for much of the meet that concluded a couple Tuesdays ago, but just as notable were the number of paceless turf races. Time and time again the fractional times in a grass race would be posted, and any horseplayer or horse-person with a deep closer would groan: How could your steed rally and win when the front-runners weren't going to be slowing down?

So it was with Lady Lionel the last time she raced at Arlington. In a third-level turf allowance on Sept. 7, Lady Lionel, typically positioned in mid-pack, was third on the backstretch, just a few lengths off an opening half-mile timed in a glacial 51 seconds. So, not only was Lady Lionel taken out of her best game - rallying behind a true pace - she wound up second by a half-length to Josefina's Pride, who was even closer to the false pace and got the jump on Lady Lionel. Josefina's Pride was ambitiously spotted in Saturday's Indian Maid Stakes, but Lady Lionel has landed in a race she can win, the featured seventh here on Sunday.

This third-level allowance drew a full field of 12 with two also-eligibles, and this time there should be an honest pace for Lady Lionel. In fact, Lady Lionel's trainer, Moises Yanez, has seen to that, with the entry of speedy Flama Del Sol. Leawood is a confirmed front-runner, and stretch-out sprinters Lizzy's Township and Gold Spike should ensure legitimate early fractions.

Lady Lionel, an Illinois-bred, has progressed steadily all year since moving to grass. She won twice at Arlington and was second there in two other tries, and still may have upside in only her sixth career grass race.

Suaviter and Pimentinha, both claimed for $50,000 out of their most recent race, also look like contenders, as does Meadow Skippin, who won well on turf in her most recent start. Meadow Skippin overcame post 11 to win last time; Sunday, she has the 12-hole.

Stretching also fits the race, but needs a scratch to draw in from the also-eligible list.

Business off to a slow start

Hawthorne has experienced dramatic handle declines from last year's figures during the first nine days of this meet, though head-to-head comparisons, track officials point out, are difficult to make.

Through Wednesday, total handle on Hawthorne races was down some 27 percent over similar days, and ontrack handle on Hawthorne races was off by a similar percentage. Ontrack betting on Hawthorne's live product has been especially disappointing, since Hawthorne revamped its facility - closing off a major portion of the plant to try and create a more energetic atmosphere, adding flat- and big-screen monitors, developing betting centers - to try and attract more fans. Wednesday, only $96,436 was bet here on Hawthorne races, a number not atypical for the early season.

Hawthorne started its meet a week earlier this year than last, and track officials said they feel that has affected both the ontrack and out-of-state handle. Last year's meet launched the day before the Hawthorne Gold Cup, the track's biggest race, but this year's Gold Cup comes some two weeks into the season. The earlier start also meant Hawthorne launched during the Fairplex season in Southern California. Fairplex doesn't take the Hawthorne simulcast signal, but Oak Tree at Santa Anita, which was racing when the 2005 Hawthorne meet began, does.

"I think our numbers are skewed right now," said Hawthorne president Tim Carey. "I think we'll have a much better feel for where we are in the middle of next week. We're going to do everything we can to generate interest in the live meet."

Lord Carmen may wheel back quickly

Plans are fluid for Lord Carmen, who missed by a nose on Tuesday in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs. Lord Carmen, a 20-1 shot, was edged out by Embossed on the sodden European-style course,

Lord Carmen was away from the races for more than a year, coming back in July at Arlington. He won an overnight stakes over 1 1/2 miles there Sept. 2 before the near-miss.

Trainer Frank Kirby said he had nominated Lord Carmen to Friday's Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland, and while acknowledging that the race "comes up kind of quick," said he was considering a start there.

* Meadow Bride, one of the better Illinois-bred route horses of recent seasons, has been retired and will be bred next year, her trainer, Richard Hazelton, said. Meadow Bride won 7 of 17 starts, including four stakes races.