10/23/2007 12:00AM

Stretch-out should help Penny Dream

EmailBettors looking for some mental exercise, or simply wanting to sharpen their handicapping skills in advance of the Breeders' Cup, might find Hawthorne's featured fifth race on Thursday a suitable challenge. There is no clear-cut favorite in this third-level allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf, which also carries a $40,000 claiming option.

Illinois-breds predominate, making up seven of the eight entrants in the main body of the field and one of the two main-track-only alternates. Conditions seem ripe, however, for the lone New York-bred in the field, Penny Dream, to come through.

A three-time winner on Polytrack at Arlington Park during the summer, Penny Dream, 7, also has displayed ability on the grass during her long career. That was not entirely evident in two starts on the Arlington turf, but both were at distances shorter than what Penny Dream typically needs. By returning to two turns on Thursday, Penny Dream should be more competitive.

Ric Rac enters off an impressive 2o3/4-length win in a second-level allowance for Illinois-breds in which she passed most of the field with a six-wide stretch rally. Ric Rac is perhaps the sharpest horse in the field, having won 3 of her last 5 starts, and she had legitimate excuses in the two losses, one on Polytrack and the other in the Grade 3 Pucker Up.

Beware Baby, a distant second in a similar allowance last time out, can improve on that finish if she rates close to the lead, as she usually does. She broke slowly last out, yet made a mild rally between rivals to complete the exacta. Beware Baby has finished first or second in 6 of her last 7 starts.

Now does not appear as sharp as she was earlier this year when she lost by less than a length in the Lincoln Heritage Handicap at Arlington. She finished a little more than two lengths behind Beware Baby last time out.

Synd, one of the two entered for the main track, looks like a serious contender if the race is taken off the grass.Bettors looking for some mental exercise, or simply wanting to sharpen their handicapping skills in advance of the Breeders' Cup, might find Hawthorne's featured fifth race on Thursday a suitable challenge. There is no clear-cut favorite in this third-level allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf, which also carries a $40,000 claiming option.

Illinois-breds predominate, making up seven of the eight entrants in the main body of the field and one of the two main-track-only alternates. Conditions seem ripe, however, for the lone New York-bred in the field, Penny Dream, to come through.

A three-time winner on Polytrack at Arlington Park during the summer, Penny Dream, 7, also has displayed ability on the grass during her long career. That was not entirely evident in two starts on the Arlington turf, but both were at distances shorter than what Penny Dream typically needs. By returning to two turns on Thursday, Penny Dream should be more competitive.

Ric Rac enters off an impressive 2o3/4-length win in a second-level allowance for Illinois-breds in which she passed most of the field with a six-wide stretch rally. Ric Rac is perhaps the sharpest horse in the field, having won 3 of her last 5 starts, and she had legitimate excuses in the two losses, one on Polytrack and the other in the Grade 3 Pucker Up.

Beware Baby, a distant second in a similar allowance last time out, can improve on that finish if she rates close to the lead, as she usually does. She broke slowly last out, yet made a mild rally between rivals to complete the exacta. Beware Baby has finished first or second in 6 of her last 7 starts.

Now does not appear as sharp as she was earlier this year when she lost by less than a length in the Lincoln Heritage Handicap at Arlington. She finished a little more than two lengths behind Beware Baby last time out.

Synd, one of the two entered for the main track, looks like a serious contender if the race is taken off the grass.