10/03/2005 12:00AM

'Pepper' set to take off for Tomillo


CHICAGO - Eight days into Hawthorne's fall season, Tom Tomillo has started more horses, won more races, and earned more purse money at the meet than any other trainer stabled in Chicago. He sent out Lord of the Game to finish a close second in the Hawthorne Gold Cup and has the horse to catch in Wednesday's featured fourth race.

That horse is Pass the Pepper, who, like Lord of the Game, is owned by Bill Slevin's Two Blondes Stable. In fact, Pass the Pepper wound up in Slevin's hands in great part because of Lord of the Game's runaway success. Slevin said in midsummer he planned to reinvest Lord of the Game's earnings in other racehorses, and he has stayed busy at the claim box for several months.

was one of the high-end buys, taken for $50,000 out of an optional claimer last April 26 at Hawthorne, and although Pass the Pepper has lost all three of her starts since then, her turn might be coming Wednesday.

"Pass the Pepper's doing real good, and she ought to run real good," Tomillo said. "Really and truly, I don't know if she liked the racetrack over at Arlington. But she likes this one, and she's doing real well again."

Indeed, Pass the Pepper has won 3 of 11 starts elsewhere and 5 of 12 at Hawthorne. Though she does not excel in turf races, she was beaten less than a length on grass Sept. 5 at Arlington, suggesting her form is better now than it was in late spring and early summer. Wednesday, Pass the Pepper gets into a fourth-level allowance sprint by virtue of a $60,000 claiming option, and it is always reassuring to see a horse starting for a price higher than the one paid when she was claimed.

Pass the Pepper should make a clear early lead in Wednesday's fourth. She has only five rivals, none of whom can obviously match her speed. If Pass the Pepper opens daylight and comes into the stretch with something left, she should be difficult to pass.

has the best chance of catching her. Lightly raced, with 4 wins in only 6 career starts, Bluesbdancing returned from injury and an eight-month layoff to win an overnight sprint stakes restricted to 3-year-olds on Aug. 13 at Arlington. She was less sharp in a fifth-place finish three weeks later in another overnight stakes, this one against older horses, but should rebound Wednesday for trainer Terrel Gore.

The others in the race - none of them obviously overmatched - are Crow Jane, Piano Tunner, Sparkling Sabia, and Miss Outrageous.