09/30/2003 12:00AM

My Sweet Heart difficult to gauge

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CHICAGO - While War Emblem's stallion career languishes in Japan, his little sister, named My Sweet Heart, is struggling to find herself in Stickney, Ill. War Emblem has displayed a lack of interest in breeding mares. My Sweet Heart may be too interested in running fast.

Running fast is what racing's all about, but there is a time and a place, and My Sweet Heart hasn't yet discovered her "off" button.

"She's a little backward," trainer Frank "Bobby" Springer said Tuesday. "If you reach out and grab a hold of her, she'll take off on you."

War Emblem was somewhat the same way, and he managed to win two-thirds of the Triple Crown, and My Sweet Heart has gradually been coming around. She was entered in a second-level, Illinois-bred grass allowance race, the best race on Hawthorne's Thursday card.

In fact, the one time My Sweet Heart really came off the bridle was her lone turf start. "She settled too much on grass," Springer said. My Sweet Heart finished an even sixth on turf, but her effort is hard to judge since she faced open company, caught a yielding course, and raced with blinkers off, a change from her previous start.

"I couldn't tell whether she didn't like the grass or not," Springer said.

Springer, who trains My Sweet Heart for owner Russell Reineman, is willing to give her another chance, though he would prefer rain forced the race onto the main track. Springer said both My Sweet Heart and Baltic City, another filly he entered, run well in mud.

Even with her issues, and the question of which surface she prefers, My Sweet Heart can win Thursday for the third time in a career that just began in May. She was third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, at the statebred second allowance level in her last start, but the race was one of those cases where My Sweet Heart never really got untracked. If she is allowed to bound out to the lead, or stalk a moderate pace in the clear, My Sweet Heart may show something closer to her best this time.

And that will be required - on turf, at least - to beat Echo Jo, who took a slight step backward when she finished third in her last start, a Sept. 12 grass race at Arlington, but won very impressively in late August. Trained by Joe Kasperski, who clearly has pointed much of his barn to this meet, Echo Jo is the horse to beat on turf, though Church's Out, Iota, and several others merit a look in a well-matched field.