12/07/2009 12:00AM

Snow puts card in jeopardy


STICKNEY, Ill. - A couple days after Shrewd Operator won a Nov. 20 six-furlong allowance race at Hawthorne by almost five lengths with a time a shade under 1:09, his trainer, Chris Block, suggested that Shrewd Operator would make one more Chicago start before plans for the rest of the winter were formulated.

"Let's see if he can do it again," Block said at the time, not knowing then that he might have added, "in a snowstorm," to the end of his thought.

The season's first true winter storm was forecast to hit Tuesday night. By Wednesday, there may be several inches of snow on the ground, with freezing rain and sleet also possible. The first cancellation of the Hawthorne fall-winter meeting seems entirely possible if the forecast holds.

If not, Shrewd Operator will indeed try to do it again in featured race 6, a six-furlong third-level optional $50,000 claimer. Besides Shrewd Operator, the field includes a pair from the barn of trainer Hugh Robertson, King A.J. and Celluloid Hero; Bet the Limit, a winner of two straight; and Mongoose Gold, who has been working up a storm for her first race since June.

Shrewd Operator figures to be heavily favored, but is not invulnerable. A one-dimensional speedball, Shrewd Operator must break on cue and head straight to the front from post 1. If he clears Zoeling and the speedy Celluloid Hero, and the Hawthorne main track is carrying speed, there will be no catching him. But there's a chance Celluloid Hero applies more pace pressure than Shrewd Operator prefers, which could set the table for the other Robertson-trained horse, King A.J.

Meier's injuries not too serious

Jockey Randy Meier appears to be on the mend following a one-horse spill Thursday. Meier, 55, went down when his mount in race 7, Run Frankie Run, stumbled and fell just before the half-mile pole. Meier landed on his head.

Taken to Loyola Hospital in nearby Maywood, Meier had bleeding and swelling of the brain through the weekend, according to his agent, Kenny Danna. But Danna on Monday said the bleeding had subsided, the swelling had improved, and that Meier should not be at the hospital much longer.

Danna said Meier also had fractured a vertebra in his neck. Meier was wearing a neck brace, but was ambulatory as of Sunday.