11/17/2008 12:00AM

Radical Fringe to brave the cold


STICKNEY, Ill. – Sure, there were heavy lake-effect snows around the eastern side of Lake Michigan this week, and the mercury is supposed to be stuck in 40-and-under mode, well, indefinitely here in Chicago. But don’t tell that to Hawthorne, which gamely continues carding races on its grass course. In fact, the featured fourth race on Wednesday, a second-level turf-sprint allowance, came up a decent race.

Eight were entered in the main body of the field, with Priceless Bull to start only in the event of a move to dirt. That’s not a huge group, but it suited trainer Hugh Robertson. Robertson said he has been trying to enter Radical Fringe in a second-level allowance at Churchill, but the race consistently failed to fill.

Radical Fringe would not have been overmatched at the more major venue, and should be very tough on Wednesday at Hawthorne. A 3-year-old Van Nistelrooy gelding, Radical Fringe broke slowly and finished a closing fifth in his turf-sprint career debut Aug. 2 at Arlington, and has come steadily forward ever since. He cleared the maiden ranks on turf in his second start, won an entry-level Polytrack allowance by three lengths at Arlington, and finished a close second to the fast sprinter My Best Pal Red last out in a Keeneland main-track allowance race.

“He did turn into a pretty nice horse,” Robertson said. “I was kind of surprised. We didn’t give a whole lot of money for him, and it took a long time to get him to the races. He had a lot of problems. Fortunately, he seems to be pretty much over them.”

Robertson said he would keep Radical Fringe in the Wednesday feature even if the race is rained off grass. “He trains all right on dirt,” he said. “I’ll run him no matter what, since he’s going to get turned out after this.”

Front-running Castles in the Sky could test Radical Fringe, provided his chances aren’t hurt by an early pace duel. Castles in the Sky is actually dropping in class, having won over the Hawthorne grass course last out when in for a $50,000 claiming price in a race also open to third-level allowance horses.

There is more decent racing later in the card: Race 8 is a two-turn entry-level allowance for 2-year-olds that, for the Illinois-breds entered, serves as a prep to the Dec. 13 Jim Edgar Futurity. Summer’s Empire, Kokomo Gypsy, and Charter Class, Illinois-breds all, will be challenged by Willie Bags, who won an open maiden route race here in his most recent start.

Tomillo changing winter routine

It’s not like Tom Tomillo was competing for leading trainer over the winter at Fair Grounds, but his presence at the New Orleans seemed like a given at this point. Tomillo guessed he had sent a winter string to Fair Grounds from Hawthorne for 35 years, but that era is over now.

This year, Tomillo has no stalls at Fair Grounds, and will stable a 10 horse string at Gulfstream Park, while keeping the bulk of his claiming stable here at Hawthorne.

“It’s really getting tough down there,” Tomillo said of the Fair Grounds meet. “You run against a bunch of guys that drop them in on you all the time. Plus, I don’t have any Louisiana-breds, and they write so many of those races. I’m just going to try something different.”

Tomillo’s barn got off to a pretty good start at the ongoing Hawthorne meet, but has struggled of late, and through last weekend had just seven wins from 107 starters.

Wildeydsouthernboy turned out

Robertson said that the promising Illinois-bred Wildeydsouthernboy has been turned out for the winter.

“He’s fine,” Robertson said. “We just decided to give him a rest, and he’ll be back in the spring.”

Wildeydsouthernboy finished ninth in a soft-turf allowance sprint two races ago at Arlington, but has won his four other starts, most recently capturing an open third-level allowance race on the Hawthorne dirt by more than three lengths.

* Both the trainer and jockey races at Hawthorne remain tightly bunched after five weeks of the meet. Wayne Catalano has 14 wins to top the trainer standings, but eight different barns have notched at least 10 wins. Chris Emigh enters this week’s racing with 39 wins, three more than Inez Karlsson, and four more than Tim Thornton.