04/16/2005 12:00AM

Shadow of Illinois set for sharp try

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Two days before he was to start as a live contender in Monday's $100,000 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita, was sending the right signals to trainer Anthony Saavedra during a gallop on Saturday morning.

"I just got off of him and he was full of it," Saavedra said. "He's coming into it as good as he can come into a race."

Shadow of Illinois comes into the San Simeon off a rare win. The 5-year-old gelding won an optional claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course on March 13, ending a 14-race losing streak. The Grade 3 San Simeon is run over the same course and distance, a trip at which Shadow of Illinois has occasional found trouble.

"We finally got a good trip off the hill," Saavedra said of the recent win.

Owned by Dave and Ella Sivage, Shadow of Illinois has yet to win a stakes. He was ninth in the California Cup Sprint last October and sixth in the Sensational Star Handicap in February after fighting for the early lead.

His recent win makes him a contender in the San Simeon, which has drawn six entrants. Geronimo, who won the Green Flash Handicap for turf sprinters at Del Mar last summer, is the likely favorite and will carry high weight of 117 pounds.

Trained by John Sadler for Gary and Cecil Barber, Geronimo was claimed for $80,000 on Feb. 27, a day he won.

Geronimo returned and ran second in an allowance race on March 27, but Sadler said he had trouble shortly after the start.

"He broke, took about three strides, and bobbled really badly," Sadler said.

Sadler thinks that Geronimo's latest race proves that the 6-year-old gelding will be a good claim.

"We thought, if he's not okay, he would have been a $60,000 or $80,000 claimer," Sadler said. "If he still has life in him, he can go in stakes. He's a cool horse. He's one of those older geldings that's nice to be around."

Geronimo is a closer who should have pace to follow. Lazzeri, who has won a maiden race and an allowance race on the hillside course, is very quick. McCann's Mojave, who won the 2004 Sensational Star Handicap for statebreds on the hillside, might also be near the front. McCann's Mojave is winless in three starts, including a fifth and an eighth in sprints on the dirt in January.

Golden Arrow and Royal Price, who were third and fourth behind Geronimo on March 27, also are entered.