11/13/2003 1:00AM

Oaks draws a tough crew


STICKNEY, Ill. - The last call for 3-year-old filly stakes horses in Chicago has brought out a surprisingly good group for Saturday's $100,000 Hawthorne Oaks, the last open stakes race at this meet.

The Oaks, at 1 1/16 miles, drew 11 entries, including five locals, five fillies in from Churchill Downs, and one from Fairmount Park. Nor does the Oaks lack quality: the second-, third-, and fifth-place finishers from the Grade 3 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks are here, joined by Rebridled Dreams, the best local hope, and Fickle Factor, a 20-length allowance winner at Mountaineer Park late last month.

The draw was unkind to Cloakof Vagueness, who was hung out in post 11, a tough spot with a fairly short run to the first turn. Cloakof Vagueness likes to race from midpack, the worst sort of style for a horse with a wide draw. Cloakof Vagueness either must be sent for position, taking her out of her comfort zone, or drop straight back to save ground, which could leave her with too much to do in the stretch. The other option is to let the filly break at her own pace - and hope for the best.

The post is the only knock on Cloakof Vagueness, a strapping El Prado filly owned by Charles Duncker and trained by William "Blackie" Huffman. More than 16 hands tall, Cloakof Vagueness has spent much of the year growing into her body. At Saratoga, where she was trained by Phil Hauswald, Cloakof Vagueness made a jump forward, winning an entry-level allowance and finishing second in a second-level allowance, both against older horses. She then was a good second to Awesome Humor in the Indiana Oaks.

"She's been pretty consistent," Huffman said. "She's late developing, but she gets a little better each time. She's not a real fast filly, but she's light on her feet, she skips over the ground, and she never seems to get tired."

But the way the race sets up, Cloakof Vagueness may have trouble running down Rebridled Dreams, the likely pace-presser just behind Hippogator, who should be sent to the lead from post 8. Rebridled Dreams fractured a hind ankle in the spring, just when she was getting good, but has two wins going long over the tricky Hawthorne racing surface.

Shot Gun Favorite, another Churchill horse, was third in the Indiana Oaks - no match for the top pair - but was a victim of a wide trip. Shot Gun Favorite had won the Prairie Meadows Oaks in her previous start, and she campaigned at Arlington this past summer.