09/21/2006 12:00AM

Silver Bid searching for old spark


No, the Saturday feature at Hawthorne Race Course is not a stakes, but with the number of horses entered it is almost like two races bundled into one. A total of 14 horses went into the featured eighth, a third-level allowance race with a $40,000 claiming option; 12 made the body of the race, with two more stuck on the also-eligible list.

From the list of entries pops a familiar name in a strange place, Silver Bid, the 8-year-old who has stood atop or near the top of the Illinois-bred sprint division for several years. Silver Bid seemed to be slowing through part of last year, but here he came again early this spring, with a second to Fifteen Rounds to start his 2006, then a win in the $107,000 Chicagoland Handicap. But Silver Bid, while racing decently, has not looked his emphatic self in three races since then: He finished third, then fifth, in Illinois-bred stakes at Arlington, and at odds of 3-10 in a Canterbury Park allowance race July 23, Silver Bid was fourth of six.

So, with a nod to realistic placement, trainer Joel Berndt and owner Gene Young have entered Silver Bid for the $40,000 claiming option in the Saturday feature. The risk of a claim is out there: At Arlington, 10-year-old Ivan Jay Perry was taken for a $25,000 tag.

But even if Silver Bid runs back to his better Hawthorne races from the spring, can he beat Wonone? At Hawthorne, no one has yet. Wonone's form shows eight starts and four layoff lines, but when he's right, he's quite fast. Wonone won his career debut here at this time two years ago, and later that meet ran big winning an entry-level allowance race. Back to the races in July at Arlington after a long injury-related layoff, Wonone failed to fire in his turf debut, then wound up in a tough spot, breaking from the rail against crack sprinters Elusive Jazz, Alabama Clay, and Smalltown Slew. His fourth-place finish that day was respectable, and Wonone has since turned in a pair of five-furlong bullet works - the most recent of them at Hawthorne - for trainer Dale Bennett.

Hawthorne regularly provides a home for the unpredictable, however, and no handicapper will be blamed for digging deeper in the Saturday feature. Others with a legit shot are Sub Futz Jr and Connections, both of who stand a very solid chance, as well as Catalissa and Jaguar Friend, longer shots who will need many things to fall their way in order to win.