12/31/2007 12:00AM

Sole of the City a threat on back class

EmailHorseplayers in Chicago, accustomed in recent years to starting their winter break following a New Year's Day program at Hawthorne, will have to postpone their vacation plans for another two weeks.

Rather than reopen in late February, as has been the case in the recent past, Hawthorne management chose to extend the fall meet to Jan. 13, with the spring meet now scheduled to commence in early March. The possibility of unseasonably warm holiday weather, which has not really occurred, and the desire to limit competition between Hawthorne and winter-time tracks such as Oaklawn Park in order to boost field size at the spring meet, were factors in the decision to adjust Hawthorne's racing dates.

Even though Hawthorne and Oaklawn are not currently overlapping, it appears there is still a limit as to how much cold weather some horsemen are willing to endure, especially with some of their higher-class stock. A case in point is Wednesday's featured third race, a third-level allowance with a $40,000 claiming option, which attracted only six fillies and mares, many of whom would have trouble winning at this level at other times during the Chicago racing season.

What it lacks in quantity and quality, this 1o1/16-mile optional claimer at least has the potential to be a truly run race, with a sufficient number of front-runners to give those without as much tactical foot a chance at winning.

Little Star, who led gate to wire in winning a statebred second-level allowance in late November, is sure to be up close to the pace again, but might see early pressure from the rail horse, Sole of the City, a 7-year-old who has been content to show tracking speed in recent sprint attempts. Sole of the City, in fact, may be the class handicappers' selection based on her win in an $80,000 optional claimer at Hawthorne last March.

Easy Tee, who on Nov. 17 captured the Frances Slocum Stakes for Indiana-breds for the second straight year, hopes history will repeat itself in other ways. Following her win in the 2006 Frances Slocum, Easy Tee returned to her Hawthorne home base and won an open second-level allowance, which until now has been her only start at Hawthorne. Easy Tee has won her last three two-turn dirt attempts.