11/25/2004 1:00AM

Sharp form gives Coping an edge


CHICAGO - In winter racing at Hawthorne, sharp form can take a horse further than inherent class, which is one reason Coping looks so good in the featured sixth race here Saturday.

Coping was one of seven horses entered in the feature, a third-level allowance with a $35,000 claiming option carded for 1 1/16 miles on dirt. Coping has five wins and doesn't qualify under the race's allowance condition, so he and two others, Road Town and He's Hammered, run for the tag.

That's fine, since Coping remains above the $25,000 claim price owner Terry Bruner paid for him Oct. 2. Claiming a horse out of a win is a good feeling, and Coping scored by two lengths that day. He was back a month later for trainer Hector Magana in a race at this class level and finished second of nine despite racing five wide on the first turn, and he was beaten only by Bodgiteer, a horse who is a cut above.

There are no Bodgiteers in Saturday's race and that clears the way for Coping, whose stalk-and-pounce style and post 4 should create a better trip this time.

Out of the Nov. 13 High Alexander Handicap come the Illinois-breds King Magic, who was eighth that day, and Road Town, who was 11th. Both fit better Saturday than they did in the High Alexander, a statebred stakes. King Magic is probably a superior turf horse, but he seems to be approaching a peak effort. Road Town has upset potential, since his ugly running line in the High Alexander should be ignored, and he was an improving horse just a couple of months ago.

Humor at Last straight to futurity

Humor at Last, the winner of the Sun Power Stakes on Nov. 13, had an easy five-furlong breeze Wednesday, and trainer Tony Mitchell now says Humor at Last will go straight to the $100,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity on Dec. 18 without a two-turn prep race.

An undefeated Illinois-bred, Humor at Last has impressively won two sprints to start his career, and Mitchell said he hoped to get Humor at Last two-turn experience before the futurity, which is run at 1 1/16 miles. He would have to ship Humor at Last out of town, though, to find a suitable spot, and Mitchell said the potential cost of such a move would outweigh the benefit.

"We don't want to go running all over the country with him," Mitchell said.

Wednesday's work was little more than an open gallop, Mitchell said. Humor at Last has plenty of speed; the idea now is to harness it.

Also working Wednesday was Coach Jimi Lee, who could run next in a Churchill Downs allowance or the Kenny Noe Handicap at Calder.

Races called of due to weather

Hawthorne canceled its last four races Wednesday because of deteriorating track conditions. Heavy wind swept through Chicago in late morning, accompanied by driving snow and rain that turned the track to slush, and the card was halted after the fifth race.

A pick three ending on race 6 was paid out on two of three winners, and pick three bets beginning with race 5 were refunded. Pick six tickets with winners in the first three legs of the bet were worth $73.60, but $16,487 will carry over into Friday's pick six pool.