04/09/2003 11:00PM

Plenty of Franklins in Land of Lincoln


STICKNEY, Ill. - Illinois Thoroughbred people may simply take pride in breeding a nice statebred horse, but they don't mind taking the money, either. Too Many Bucks, Classic Appeal, Tic N Tin, Magic Doe - household names, no, but gold mines, yes. They have earned from about $221,000 (Too Many Bucks) to almost $700,000 (Magic Doe and Tic N Tin). Not bad for horses who would be something like high-end claimers on the open market.

The statebred money flows almost year-round, but especially on Saturday at Hawthorne, where $100,000 Illinois-bred stakes take up six of the 10 races on the program. The highlight is the battle of those big bankrolls in the Chicagoland Handicap.

All four have a legitimate chance in the Chicagoland, but then so do the other five entered in the six-furlong race, and on a day filled with crowded, bettable fields, competition in the Chicagoland runs the deepest.

Classic Appeal may be favored because of his performance here March 1 in the open Hula Chief Handicap, which he won going away, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 106. But followers of this circuit have other images burned into their memory. Despite finding good spots several times, Classic Appeal failed to win in 10 starts last year, often appearing to run up to the leaders and hang.

Tic N Tin has done just the opposite, taking advantage of nearly every winning chance presented him. Tic N Tin has won 13 of 31 starts the last two seasons, and was the best statebred sprinter in Illinois last year. But at age 8, Tic N Tin's performance level soon may start eroding, and this is his first race since Dec. 7.

It is difficult to get a line on Tic N Tin, but not Freeway Ticket, who has been burning up the Fair Grounds racetrack training for this race. Since he finished a close third there after racing wide on an inside-biased track, Freeway Ticket has breezed half-miles in 48, 47, and 46.60 seconds, rare times for that surface.

"I don't know what's up with this horse," said trainer Richie Scherer. "He's working so fast, and I can't slow him down. I'm expecting a big race from him."

In the other stakes for older males, Baker Road must overcome a tough post to defend successfully his title in the 1 1/16-mile Milwaukee Avenue Handicap. Baker Road drew the outside gate in a 10-horse field, but he does have sufficient speed in a relatively paceless race to slip over and gain position before the first turn.

"He can't be doing any better than he's doing," said trainer Leo Gabriel, who saw Baker Road win a March 24 sprint designed as a prep for this start. Baker Road turned 6 this year, "but knock on wood, he's sound," Gabriel said. "Once they start getting those aches and pains is when they start to go down the ladder."

In the six-furlong Violet, for 3-year-old fillies, the prime contenders are on their way up. Among them, Book the Devil, Fighting Fever, Gumbo Love, and Natural Image have lost only once. But the only horse to lose, Gumbo Love, may be the one to beat.

"I think she got outrun last time, but that was open [company] and open's a different game," said trainer Clayton Pierce.

Book the Devil has won two starts by a combined 21 lengths, prompting trainer Gene Cilio to say his filly "could be any kind of horse." Fighting Fever was a 12 1/4-length winner of her only race, while Natural Image also is 1 for 1.

The 3-year-old males in the six-furlong Land of Lincoln are on the whole a more seasoned group, with the likely favorites, Tyler's Jewel and Shandy, each having raced six times. Shandy, an open stakes winner last season, had a useful allowance prep against older horses here March 28 and should be set for a winning effort. But watch out for Add a Moment, who has begun his career with two wins for trainer Wayne Catalano.

"The horse is doing real good, but the competition just got tougher," Catalano said. "We're going to see what he's made of."

Julie's Prize also is a 3-year-old, but since she has proved far better in routes than sprints, the Violet wasn't a viable option. Instead, trainer Tony Mitchell opted to face older horses in the 1 1/16-mile Peach of It, but the maturity issue may not matter. Julie's Prize stumbled badly leaving the gate and still easily won a two-turn allowance prep on March 16.

"Right now she's as good as I can get her," said Mitchell.

Tejano Honey was as bad as she has ever been March 22, when she was sixth in the Kissapotamus Handicap, her only off-the-board finish in a 14-race career. She needs a quick rebound Saturday to beat Win Won in the six-furlong Governor's Lady.

"I don't have an excuse for her," said trainer Tom Dorris. "They all got to throw in a bad one once in a while."