12/31/2009 12:00AM

Shadow of Illinois spry senior citizen

Benoit & Associates
The 10-year-old Shadow of Illinois moves up to stakes company for Friday's Sensational Star Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. - For a 10-year-old, Shadow of Illinois does not act his age around trainer Anthony Saavedra's barn.

"When he comes out of the stall, he's a live wire," Saavedra said.

Shadow of Illinois does not run like a 10-year-old, either. He has won 5 of his last 7, and will make his first stakes appearance in nearly four years in Friday's $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap at Santa Anita.

"He's won three in a row now and he's doing so good," Saavedra said.

Owned by Saavedra's wife, Jennifer, Shadow of Illinois won five turf sprints in Southern California in 2009, recording victories at all five of the major Southern California meetings. He ended the year with a win in an optional claimer over six furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park on Nov. 13.

Shadow of Illinois ran for claiming prices ranging from $25,000 to $62,500 in 2009. After each race, the Saavedra followed the same routine. Shadow of Illinois went to the family home near Santa Anita for a week or two of rest and paddock time before returning to training at the racetrack.

"I've learned a lot from this horse, how to keep the horse fresh and happy," Saavedra said. "I think that's helped more than anything."

Shadow of Illinois has won 5 of 14 starts and $242,538 on Santa Anita's hillside turf course. The most prestigious of those wins came in the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap in 2005. Saavedra has trained him for all but one of his 40 starts.

For Friday's race, Shadow of Illinois will be ridden by Alex Solis, who was aboard for most of the gelding's 2009 races. Solis and Shadow of Illinois could have an ideal trip, stalking expected pacesetters Live Sundays, who has won five consecutive starts and is making his stakes debut, and Compari, who won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park in April and returned to win an allowance race there last month.

"We'll sit off the pace like he does and try to run them down late," Saavedra said.

If he wins, Shadow of Illinois would make history, becoming the first 10-year-old to win a stakes at Santa Anita.

"To go into the history books at Santa Anita would be the ultimate for us," Saavedra said. "Even if he doesn't, he's done so much more than expected."