12/06/2004 1:00AM

Surface helped Wonone earn blazing time

Email

CHICAGO - There's an empty auto-racing track on the property directly north of Hawthorne Race Course, the sad remnants of what once was Sportsman's Park. Sunday at Hawthorne, the horse racing harked back to the days a few years ago when the roar of stock cars echoed through the streets of Cicero, Ill.

Given the speed with which a 2-year-old named Wonone won Sunday's first race, you could put a circle around the first Saturday in May, 2005, and pin the calendar to the colt's stall door.

But not so fast. Wonone might have run six furlongs in a blistering 1:08.97 - a graded stakes sort of time on a typical Hawthorne track - but a couple of races later a $15,000 maiden-claimer name of Next Cat ran the same distance in 1:10.18.

"You've got to take it with a grain of salt, I guess," conceded Wonone's trainer, Dale Bennett. "I think the track might still have been frozen a little underneath. It was fast in the morning for works, too. But he was still pretty impressive."

Wonone debuted with a good-looking win here earlier in the meet, good enough that the colt's connections sent him to Churchill Downs for an entry-level allowance sprint. There, everything went amiss, and after a rough start, Wonone rushed up to get into a speed duel. He was done in midstretch.

This time, Wonone settled just off the pace, doing what jockey Eddie "Shorty" Perez asked of him. Wonone, a Grand Slam colt, went about his business the right way. Now he is going to Oaklawn Park for Bennett.

"He's the most professional 2-year-old I've been around," said Bennett, who at age 32 can count his own career and years with his father, trainer Gerald Bennett, on his resume. "He's got a bright future. I don't know if he's a graded stakes horse, but he could be a good useful stakes horse."

In years past, Bennett, who still gallops many of his own horses, layered on the clothing and stuck it out all winter in Chicago. This year, he has 32 stalls at Oaklawn, and, he hopes, the right horses to fill them. The stock has worked at Hawthorne. Through Sunday, Bennett had won with 12 of 37 starters here.

Code of Ethics headed to Pago Hop

Code of Ethics validated her good-looking win in the Summertime Promise Stakes earlier this meet by winning an open third-level allowance race by 1 3/4 lengths on Sunday. The filly had plenty of time between her last two starts, but she will be hustled back into action in about two weeks, going to Fair Grounds for the Pago Hop Handicap there.

As of Monday morning, vacationing trainer Tony Granitz hadn't yet seen Code of Ethics' win. It was straightforward. Under Jesse Campbell, Code of Ethics went straight to the front, opened up at the top of the stretch, and won as she pleased.

"We kept waiting and waiting to see if this race would go," Granitz said. "This gives her 13 days to get down to Fair Grounds, which I think will be perfect. She likes Hawthorne, and my big dream is the Sixty Sails next year."

Granitz also said Illinois champion Wiggins has gone to Florida for a winter vacation. Wiggins, third as the favorite in the High Alexander Stakes here last month, will return to action in late winter.

Dash of Humor may have slight edge

Dash of Humor might have one step on Unusual Syndrome, and though neither horse is proven at the second-level allowance condition, both have a chance to win Hawthorne's featured sixth race on Wednesday.

Both fillies exit a win in an entry-level allowance race, but Dash of Humor stretched out last time to win her first start at two turns. Thursday's race will be Unusual Syndrome's first start at a route trip - one of the great unknowns in handicapping.

The two were among eight horses entered in the race, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles. And while a bettor might prefer to see a horse with sharp form at the class level, there is none to be found here.

Besides Dash of Humor and Unusual Syndrome, No No Angel and One Other Than also step up the allowance ladder after a win. Reima Rose is a midlevel claiming horse; Hasta La Quista has been off 2 1/2 months, and floundered after clearing her first allowance condition; both Poets and Angels and Dyna Girl ran ugly races last out.

For Dash of Humor, the trip to the winner's circle was her first since a debut win Feb. 1 at Oaklawn. In between were six losses, and Dash of Humor seemed to groove to the new rhythm of a slower-paced route race here Nov. 2.

Miller's agent license taken away

The Illinois Racing Board, acting through the Hawthorne stewards, rescinded the jockey's agent license of Jim Miller, who also serves as Hawthorne's assistant general manager. With less than a month of racing left at the meet, Miller will give up his position as agent for Seth Martinez, a journeyman, and Liz Morris, an apprentice. Through Sunday, Martinez had 21 wins at the meet, Morris 16.

Miller picked up Martinez in October, but has been booking mounts for Morris since last summer at Arlington. Some agents at Hawthorne charged that Miller's dual roles created a conflict of interest, though others said they were unconcerned by the situation.

As of Monday, neither Martinez nor Miller had made specific plans for the remainder of the meet.