11/24/2004 12:00AM

Old rookie flashes plenty of promise

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CHICAGO - Call Restless Mon a nontraditional student. He is older by years than most of his peers, but his education has just begun.

makes the second start of his career Friday at Hawthorne, about a month before he turns 5. His race, the eighth, is one of three entry-level allowances on Hawthorne's 10-race program. All three are routes, but the other two are for 2-year-olds, many of whom are far more seasoned than Restless Mon.

Restless Mon once was 2, but that was almost a different lifetime. In August 2001, owner John Oxley purchased Restless Mon at a yearling sale for $525,000. Months before, Oxley and trainer John Ward had won the Kentucky Derby with Monarchos, who like Restless Mon was sired by Maria's Mon. There would be no Triple Crown for Restless Mon, though, and no racing of any sort during his 3-year-old season. The most important event on his calendar that year was his sale in November to the Spalding Stable, headed by Jim Kelly. Restless Mon went to Fair Grounds with trainer Carl Bowman, but apparently could not stand up to training, and when he made it back to the racetrack in May, he was in the barn of trainer Doug Matthews.

"He'd trained about a month at Fair Grounds, I guess, and got body sore," said Matthews. "I've had no problems with him. He's done everything perfect."

That includes winning his long-delayed career debut, a six-furlong sprint here Nov. 7.

"We've got hopes for him," Matthews said. "He seems like a pretty good horse."

What encouraged Matthews was Restless Mon's ability to win at a distance probably shorter than his best. Restless Mon has the pedigree of a route horse, "and he trains that way, too," said Matthews.

Friday's race is a typical late-season entry-level allowance - there is not much to it. If Restless Mon really is cut out to be decent, he should win again.

So should recent 2-year-old maiden winners Dimple Pinch and Lighthouse Jim in their respective allowance races. Dimple Pinch scored a sharp sprint victory in his debut Oct. 30 for owner-trainer Hugh Robertson, and the fact Robertson quickly sends her to a route race suggests she has shown stamina in her training.

Meanwhile, it took a distance of ground to get Lighthouse Jim over the hump, but he won impressively here Oct. 8 in his first dirt route race. Lighthouse Jim returns in race 7 with a strong work pattern and should overcome an outside post for his second straight win.