04/20/2007 11:00PM

Season's first race for babies


STICKNEY, Ill. - There's no Ruffian-Foolish Pleasure match race, fireworks shows, or even tote-bag giveaways, but dig deep enough and a couple of mildly tasty tidbits can be found on the nine-race Monday card at Hawthorne.

Start with race 1, the first

2-year-old race of the season in Chicago, carded for 4 1/2 furlongs, and dominated by three trainers. John Wainwright, Larry Rivelli, and Dawn Martin all have two youngsters ready for the first baby race of the spring. Also in the race is a seventh horse, Digital, who finished 38 lengths behind world-record-setting One Hot Wish on April 12 at Keeneland. The Wainwright pair look best here, with Instill, who has worked fast on several occasions, preferred over his stablemate, Pixie.

Turn to race 6, and find a somewhat anonymous $4,000 claimer named Five Card Monty. But Five Card Monty can do something Monday no other horse has done this spring in Chicago, namely score his fourth win of the meet. Five Card Monty, who goes for the Charlie Bettis barn, won a pair of sprints in March, and successfully stretched out to two turns on April 16, winning another $4,000 claimer by a nose. Give him another look in this spot, too.

Race 9, an entry-level allowance, is the afternoon's lone event on turf, and drew a field of 10 fillies and mares. Emerald Bell ships in from Kentucky for

trainer Donald Burke II, who

evidently has moved his small operation from California. Burke had a stakes-class turf horse or two per year for owner Gary Tanaka - think Falcon Flight and Pellegrino - during the early years of the decade, but has won only two races the last three calendar years. But Emerald Belle looks pretty good in this spot. Her lone turf try in four career starts was a dud, but that was her career debut, and came in a 12-horse Churchill Downs

maiden race. Emerald Belle won her second start, a two-turn dirt race at Mountaineer, and ran decently - finishing third and fourth - in a pair of starts over Turfway's Polytrack. She has a grass-oriented pedigree and the right running style to come from behind in a race that should feature at least solid early fractions.

Cat Hop also will have a chance to win if she can improve off a close sixth-place finish last out at Fair Grounds, her first start after a 10-month layoff.