03/06/2007 1:00AM

Pirate Ship's season debut on favorite course


CHICAGO - A horse for a course? Pirate Ship pretty much embodies that catchphrase.

In races at Monmouth Park, Mountaineer Park, and Charles Town, at Arlington Park and Canterbury Park, 7-year-old Pirates Ship has a record of 1-1-5 in 15 starts, earning just $23,000.

But put him on the Hawthorne racing strip, and he's transformed. There, Pirate Ship has gone 9-2-3 in 23 starts with earnings approaching $94,000, and just last Dec. 17, at the close of his 6-year-old season, Pirate Ship earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 90 while winning an $18,000 claimer there by almost eight lengths.

His trainer, Roger Brueggeman, must believe Pirate Ship is coming into 2007 as well as he left 2006, since Pirate Ship makes his first start of the year not in any claiming race, but in Thursday's Hawthorne feature, a second-level allowance carded for one mile and 70 yards.

Besides the feature, there is an open entry-level allowance race and a second-level Illinois-bred allowance. That statebred-restricted spot, race 8, brings out Copper State for her first start at age 3. Copper State won 2 of 6 starts last year, never finishing worse than third, and closing her campaign with a win in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, her first two-turn trip. Thursday's race, however, is at six furlongs, and even though trainer Richard Hazelton appears to have Copper State ready, she may have to chase down Mrs. Queenie, who already has a win at this meet, and threatens to shake loose on the lead.

On the lead is where you can find Pirate Ship whenever he makes a two-turn start. Pirate Ship was a struggling bottom-level conditioned claimer two winters ago, when suddenly his route speed started sticking. His form has gone up and down a couple times since he first came around, but he generally can be counted on for several good performances during the fall, winter, and early spring.

He closed Hawthorne's 2004-2005 fall-winter meet with two good races, then came back March 5, 2005 with an easy front-end win. Pirate Ship's form was similar during the fall-winter of 2005-2006, but in his comeback race this time last year, he drew post 11, failed to make the lead, and tired to finish 10th. On Thursday, he has post 2 and appears to be the controlling speed in a six-horse field comprised of horses much like himself: mid-level claimers taking advantage of the slowest time in the Chicago racing season to try winning an allowance race.