10/12/2005 11:00PM

Oaks draws decent cast from the 'B' team


CHICAGO - The Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies on grass is run Saturday at Keeneland, about a 6 1/2-hour drive south from Hawthorne Race Course. The ungraded, $150,000 Hawthorne Oaks is a nice enough spot, but it clearly takes a back seat.

And that is exactly the kind of field that has been assembled for Saturday's Oaks, the supporting feature on Hawthorne Derby day. While Royal Copenhagen, winner of Arlington's Pucker Up Stakes last month, is staying put in California, and Singhalese, beaten favorite in the Pucker Up, will race at Keeneland in the QEII, the Hawthorne Oaks has gotten , the third- and fourth-place finishers in the Pucker Up.

Yet the filly to look out for Saturday, Dearest Queen, skipped the Pucker Up, as trainer Steve Hobby switched her back to dirt while trying to find an easier spot for her. Dearest Queen had won Arlington's Pucker Up prep race by four lengths, swooping from last to win going away. But Hobby, thinking realistically, saw the Pucker Up as "an awful tough spot."

"I thought we had a shot to win the other race at Prairie Meadows," Hobby said, referring to the Prairie Meadows Oaks.

actually wound up second in that Sept. 17 race, but it was another solid effort from the filly, her fourth in a row since Hobby began racing her in blinkers. "That's made a big difference," Hobby said.

Dearest Queen has trained strongly on the Hawthorne dirt, and Hobby said her most recent work was "super."

Dearest Queen could use pace help on the front end, and she should get it. Locally based Radiant Avie, an easy winner of two in a row, should go to the front and set solid fractions, but there are two, perhaps three, others with some pace. Chief among them is Lucrezia, who ships in from Maryland for trainer Edwin Merryman, having finished second three weeks ago in the $150,000 Martha Washington over the Laurel turf course. You Dancing Devil, who came quickly to hand when switched to grass over the summer, drew a poor outside post, but Isla Cozzene, who has faced tougher company than this since winning her maiden last May at Hollywood Park, has an inside draw, and like Dearest Queen should be coming late.

Lord of the Game works five furlongs

Lord of the Game, who is Breeders' Cup Classic-bound if he can get into a race that might overfill, worked a smooth five furlongs Thursday at Hawthorne. Out around 9 a.m., Lord of the Game was timed in 1:02, the 10th fastest of 22 works over a moderately playing racing surface. With regular rider Eddie Razo up, Lord of the Game galloped out six furlongs in 1:16, according to head clocker Bobby Belpedio, who said Lord of the Game "did it easy."

That was also the opinion of trainer Tom Tomillo, who said Lord of the Game is thriving right now. Tomillo said he plans to ship Lord of the Game to Belmont Park on Oct. 18, though he has not yet finalized transportation plans. The idea would be to give Lord of the Game his final Classic work over the Belmont surface.