04/25/2009 12:00AM

Stonehouse romps in Ill.-bred stakes

Four-Footed Fotos
Stonehouse cruises home by 5 3/4 lengths to win the Milwaukee Avenue.

STICKNEY, Ill. - Stonehouse left no doubt: If there's another Illinois-bred route horse better than he, that horse has not yet made it to Chicago.

Stonehouse pressed the slow pace of 50-1 shot Gathering Kings, took the lead at the top of the stretch, and cruised to a 5 3/4-length victory in the $90,975 Milwaukee Avenue Handicap on Saturday at Hawthorne. That gave Stonehouse victories in three straight stakes races - two of them of the open variety - and wins in the last two Illinois-bred route stakes here at Hawthorne.

Five-year-old Stonehouse ($3.40) has looked talented all along but has won as many races in the last two months as he did in his first 15 starts. Crediting the improvement to a recognizable learning process would not be going too far.

"This horse is smarter than most people," said Spanky Broussard, who trains Stonehouse for Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich. "The only thing he does wrong is chew his halter up. I have no idea how he gets it off. He's Houdini. I just had to put on another one down at Hot Springs."

At Hot Springs, Stonehouse won Oaklawn's $100,000 Fifth Season by a neck, racing from just off the pace, just as he did here Saturday. And that's a change for the better. Somewhat headstrong early in his career, Stonehouse has started relaxing better in his races. Energy saved early is energy available late, and jockey Perry Compton made the most of it Saturday.

Gathering Kings held on for second, finishing a nose in front of 38-1 chance P D Q Kiddo. Winning time for the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track was 1:44.48.

Governor's Lady: Nicks get ideal trip

The 5-year-old mare Nicks has retained the spark she showed late in 2008. After finishing third in her first start this year, Nicks won another Illinois-bred stakes Saturday, looking at least as good capturing the $90,375 Governor's Lady Handicap as she had winning her stakes debut here in November.

No surprise that Nicks wasn't at her best in her March 7 allowance comeback: trainer Christine Janks gives most of her horses a good winter rest in Florida, and many of them take a race or two to reach peak form once back in Chicago.

Nicks broke on top and settled into a perfect trip, stalking three speed horses under jockey Lyndie Wade. But then most everything went right for Wade here Saturday. The victim of a serious spill two autumns ago, Wade nearly took an early retirement from riding last season but elected to soldier on. He won three stakes Saturday. Besides Nicks, Wade booted home Home's the Best in the Peach of It Handicap and took the Land of Lincoln with Agnostic.

Nicks ran down Magnetic Miss, who set a fast pace and held well while losing by a length. Third was Secret Kin, with the winner home in 1:10.49 for six furlongs over a track turned sloppy by mid-card rain.

Williamson saddles pair of winners

Two of Wade's wins came for trainer Brian Williamson, who saddled Home's the Best in the $102,825 Peach of It and won the $90,450 Land of Lincoln with Agnostic.

Home's the Best rallied from seventh in an eight-horse field to win in a romp, beating another Williamson-trained horse Lawn, by 4 1/2 lengths.

Home's the Best ($7) carries the familiar silks of Williamson's mother-in-law, Nancy Vanier. Home's the Best was timed in 1:45.46 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track. Mongoose Gold set the pace and held third.

Agnostic also rallied from well back, but came up the fence, instead of the outside like Home's the Best. Agnostic ($30.40) waited near the back of the pack, commenced a rally around the far turn, and finished along the rail in the stretch run, beating favored Devil's Halo, who was pinched at the start, by two lengths. Johnnie's Breeze finished third.

* Mighty Rule ran his wet-track record to 2 for 2, winning the Robert S. Molaro Stakes by a neck over Caruso. Mighty Rule ($17) was the second stakes winner of the day for Janks and owners Carson Springs Farm, Arbaway Farm, and David Campbell, who won earlier with Nicks.

* Bow Tie Pasta ($12.80) swept to the front with a wide turn move and won the $98,450 Pretty Jenny Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths. Cart's Linda was second and Lose None finished third in the six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.