Updated on 09/17/2011 2:31PM

Sparks takes on the boys


CHICAGO - It is feature-by-committee on Tuesday at Hawthorne.

There is no single event on the nine-race program worth getting into a sweat over. But the racing is solid from start to finish, especially for a midweek card on Chicago's Southwest side.

Among the attractions are Chicago's first 2-year-old race of the season, and three entry-level turf allowance races, two for Illinois-breds.

Handicappers will find the 2-year-old race, race 4 on the card, difficult to puzzle through. This is not Keeneland or Churchill, where hotbeds of precocity - like the Steve Asmussen and Todd Pletcher barns - have been sending out waves of early-season speedsters. In fact, Chicago's juvenile opener lacks many of the spring 2-year-old specialists on the radar screen of local players. But Richard Hazelton does have a first-time starter, and Hazelton has won more races with 2-year-olds than most trainers have won with horses of any age.

This one appears to have a good chance, but only if she can show speed. Sparks, a Gold Case filly, has drawn the rail, and must break sharply to avoid a traffic-filled trip. Sparks, whose form shows some promising workouts, is one of five fillies among 10 horses entered in the race. The idea is this: If you have a horse ready to run in early May here, it does not much matter whether the animal is male or female. Of the colts, the outside horse, Tepexpan, probably bears watching. His trio of three-furlong breezes aren't exceptional, but trainer Angel Medina has been sending live runners at this meet, and Tepexpan is by the successful young sire Indian Charlie.

From an abbreviated dirt sprint, the action shifts to two-turn turf racing. Sassy Belle should win the fifth, provided she returns ready from a six-month seasonal layoff. Four tightly spaced workouts suggest that's possible, and Sassy Belle ran well over this grass course last fall.

The seventh is perhaps more difficult, but one could not help being struck by the ease with which Code of Ethics won her route debut - albeit on dirt - here April 10. Proudest Queen and Ms. Lydonia, two more first-time turfers, also look like contenders.

* Hawthorne announced that Jim Miller, the track's director of publicity, has been promoted to assistant general manager. Miller will remain Hawthorne's daily in-house television host and linemaker.