11/04/2003 12:00AM

Paddy's Spy looks like a longshot special - again


CHICAGO - He is 8, a bulky gray horse with a coat turning white from age and a Silky Sullivan stretch-running style. This fall his career trajectory has tilted upward once again, and Paddy's Spy could be a fan favorite, one of those revered old claimers, except that he has never been much of a winner. In 96 starts he has finished first 12 times and second 17, and in earlier years, his record made embarrassing stops at 5 for 40 and 6 for 58.

But Paddy's Spy has a knack for running big in Hawthorne stakes races, and there is one for him on Saturday. The timing is right, since Paddy's Spy's is coming off a powerful win in a $25,000 claimer here last month.

In a career that began six summers ago, Paddy's Spy has won more than $580,000, a huge sum for a horse who has often toiled with mid-level claimers. Such are the opportunities offered an Illinois-bred, opportunities on full display here Saturday when Hawthorne hosts six $100,000 statebred stakes, the Phil Georgeff Illinois Festival of Racing.

Paddy's Spy will not be the favorite in the Robert F. Carey Handicap, but that means nothing. He was 25-1 when he upset the $50,000 Demetri's Boy Handicap here in September 1998, and 25-1 when he won the High Alexander (now the Carey Handicap) by more than four lengths two winters ago.

These victories didn't escape trainer Charlie Bettis, who went in with his partner Kenneth Fishbein to claim Paddy's Spy for $35,000 13 months ago.

"I watched him for so many years around here," Bettis said Tuesday. "I always wanted him. He tries hard, he likes Hawthorne, and he's a real nice-looking horse."

Bettis now has Paddy's Spy at the right time, with the horse thriving and a Hawthorne stakes race looming. The Hawthorne racing surface was deep and tiring on Oct. 8, but Paddy's Spy skipped over it, and would have won that day by far more than a length if he hadn't encountered traffic trouble coming off the far turn. He ran faster than open allowance horses did two starts later that day, a race in which Baker Road, one of the favorites in Saturday's stakes, was a distant second.

Will Summer Mis carry 127?

After discussing Summer Mis's 127-pound weight assignment with owner Richard Otto, trainer Tony Mitchell still isn't sure where Summer Mis is running. He and Otto must decide by Thursday whether Summer Mis will accept her heavy impost and start as the favorite Saturday in the Powerless Handicap, or go straight to the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap later this month at Aqueduct.

"Mr. Otto's still kind of up in the air with it," Mitchell said Tuesday. "He'd like to run here, but he's not happy with the weight at all. She is a little fragile, and carrying 127 pounds isn't going to help her."

Summer Mis's younger half-sister Julie's Prize is a confirmed starter in the Illini Princess, where she is high-weighted despite being a 3-year-old filly facing older horses.

Williamson's youngsters can make a splash

A couple weeks ago, trainer Brian Williamson said he hoped to have a good Hawthorne meet with his crop of 2-year-olds. The big chance comes Saturday.

Williamson has two fillies for the Showtime Deb, and one or two colts for the Sun Power Stakes. Williamson plans on running the fillies Barrel Racer and Journey Fever, and will have Iron Rogue, an impressive debut winner here last month, and perhaps Indian Game in the race for colts.

Iron Rogue may have the most raw talent of the group. Williamson is looking ahead with Barrel Racer, whose main goal this meet is the Dec. 13 Illinois Breeders' Debutante, a route race.

"She's going to be real tough when they stretch out in December," Williamson said. "If they go fast enough in front of her this time, she could get a piece of it."

Dixieland Gulch could make amends

Don't bother looking for easy throwouts in Thursday's featured eighth race. Eleven fillies were entered to sprint six furlongs in the second-level allowance, and perhaps two or three can safely be eliminated.

Instead, attend to what trainer Mickey Goldfine has to say about his horse, Dixieland Gulch.

"Assuming the track's in good shape, she'll be a very tough filly," Goldfine said.

Dixieland Gulch, an Arthur Appleton homebred, won at first asking July 27 at Arlington, and came right back five weeks later to easily win an entry-level allowance. But she finished fourth at odds of 3-5 on Oct. 18 at Hawthorne.

"There were reasons she lost," Goldfine said. "I'm not blaming the rider, but she got choked down a little. I wanted her back off the pace, but not with a stranglehold. I still think she's a really good filly. She has a little problem, and I think that bothered her last time, but it won't this time."