11/11/2004 1:00AM

Silver Bid set to rebound


STICKNEY, Ill. - Silver Bid had done little wrong all year until he stumbled home last of five in an open allowance race a month ago at Hawthorne. But if Silver Bid becomes his typical self again, he should win the $100,000-added Lightning Jet Handicap here Saturday.

He nearly did last year. In the 2003 edition, Silver Bid dueled on a fast pace and never let up, losing by a neck to Fairmount invader Bulldog George. While that horse has faded from sight, Silver Bid has won 5 of 7 with 1 second this year, looking very much like the fastest Illinois-bred sprinter going.

The allowance dud blights Silver Bid's form, but trainer Joel Berndt said he believes the race was an aberration. Silver Bid had been standing quietly in the gate, but he was unprepared for the start and trailed the field by several lengths on the backstretch. That's not the way Silver Bid races, and Berndt said his horse has to be close to the lead to show his best.

"He's the kind of horse that needs to be up there battling," Berndt said.

If Silver Bid gets away better Saturday, he will have company from at least one horse. That is Storm the Beach, whose most recent race was as strong as Silver Bid's was weak. Three months ago, Storm the Beach ran in a $10,000 conditioned claimer, but his form has shot forward since trainer Jim DiVito claimed him, and Storm the Beach comes off consecutive statebred allowance romps. The last was a 3 3/4-length score that earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure.

At his best, Shandy can run with Silver Bid, and Manitowish finished a closing second behind Silver Bid in an Illinois stakes last summer. Big Bold Sweep is not without a chance, based on a strong $50,000 claiming win last month at Keeneland.

Showtime Deb: Toll Taker class of field

Toll Taker won the Grade 3 Astarita on Oct. 17 at Belmont, but nine horses nevertheless were entered to oppose her in the Showtime Deb.

If Toll Taker has shipped from New York without incident, and if she runs on the Hawthorne racing surface like she did at Monmouth and Belmont, the opposition runs for second money in the Showtime Deb. Toll Taker, based on the East Coast with trainer Tim Hills, took a couple of starts to get her feet under her, but she has won three times in a row, each race better than the last. Toll Taker was almost 7-1 in the Astarita, but she made a sustained four-wide move and won by more than three lengths.

"Right from the word go, people have thought highly of this filly," Hills said.

Toll Taker will winter in Florida and point for route stakes next season, but there are Illinois-bred stakes races scattered throughout the Chicago season. If Toll Taker wins like she should Saturday, she and Hills - who has started just one horse at Hawthorne - could be back in town again.

Sun Power: 'Stormy' has upside

Stormy Afternoon has won only a maiden race so far, but there is more to come, and it could start coming Saturday in the Sun Power Stakes. The Sun Power, for 2-year-old Illinois-breds at six furlongs, drew a field of 10, and many of them have promise.

None seems more promising than Stormy Afternoon, who lost all chance at the start of his career debut in July, but came back to win an Arlington maiden race by six lengths. It took trainer Hugh Robertson a couple of months to find another spot, and when he did, Stormy Afternoon ran into a fast 2-year-old named Santana Strings here Oct. 11, finishing second in a race that went in a fast time.

Stormy Afternoon has speed, and he worked five furlongs last weekend in a bullet 59.20 seconds, but he sat off the pace in his last start and will come back to jockey Seth Martinez if that's required.

"He'll rate along if that's the way the race sets up," Robertson said.

Rating is a less certain tactical option with Humor at Last, though his trainer, Tony Mitchell, said Humor at Last has class and will sit off the pace if needed. It was not needed in Humor at Last's career debut here Oct. 16, when he buzzed along on a fast pace and won by seven lengths.

"This horse is very professional," Mitchell said. "He had a very good work, and be bounced right back out of it."

Barken hasn't raced since July and ran erratically at Arlington, but he has talent, speed, and will try Lasix and blinkers for the first time.

Illini Princess: 'Keeping' returns

For a track announcer, the Illini Princess looks unmerciful because of some of its oddly named entrants. Handicappers could be equally challenged.

There were 14 horses entered in the Illini Princess, the Illinois Day route race for older fillies and mares. Keeping the Gold looks like a standout, but she has not raced in the last 14 months. Since her last start, Keeping the Gold has been injured, bred to the Florida stallion Montbrook, lost a foal, and returned to training last summer. The injury that sent her to the sidelines hasn't cropped back up, and Keeping the Gold has a fighting chance to make a successful comeback in the Illini Princess.

"Two turns is what she needs," said trainer Chris Block. "You'd love to have gotten a race in her, but that just didn't work out."

If not Keeping the Gold, start throwing darts. Zitlaly is a sleeper, a closer with post 1 in a race where the speed figures to back up in the stretch.

Powerless: Speed battle up front

The two best horses in the Powerless, for fillies and mares at six furlongs, could be the undoing of one other. Jaguar City and Synco Peach both want to race on or near the early lead, but there might not be a closer fast enough to take advantage of a speed duel. Jaguar City has a recent open allowance win here, but Synco Peach has been working well and gets a narrow call to win.