12/03/2004 12:00AM

Tough times for track crew


STICKNEY, Ill. - Hawthorne's fleet of tractors stands ready to roll 24 hours a day. In December, keeping the track surface in racing condition can require intensive overtime.

In the last 10 days, Hawthorne has lost three days of training and a half-day of racing - and that's not bad. Chicago has settled into a pattern of freeze-and-thaw, freeze-and-thaw. A little more than an inch of snow fell a week ago, adding another layer of complexity to the job of holding the surface together.

"One day you're at 40 degrees, then it freezes again," said Greg Cardenas, Hawthorne's track superintendent. "You have to work day and night, trying to hold it together."

Friday, the surface still was filled with moisture, though there had been no precipitation in a couple of days. The melting snow, combined with the nightly freezes and daily thaws this week, have made the track all but impossible to control.

"You try to get some of the moisture out of it," Cardenas said. "We spread some sand around to dry things up. The sun's out now, and you try to keep harrowing and harrowing."

The track was listed wet-fast Friday, and times were on the quick side. Wednesday, times were much slower, but there has been no prevailing track bias here despite the difficult track conditions.

Wonone back after wasted trip to Kentucky

Wonone looked like a runner when he won his career debut here by more than two lengths on Oct. 9, so much so that his connections sent Wonone to Churchill Downs for an entry-level allowance race. How Wonone stacks up against Kentucky horses still is uncertain: In his race on Nov. 6, Wonone broke last, bumped just after the start, rushed up to duel on a fast pace, and faded to fifth. A wasted trip.

Now it is back to Hawthorne for Wonone, who starts in the first race on Sunday, an entry-level 2-year-old allowance at six furlongs.

The day's highest-class race is the sixth, a third-level, filly-and-mare route allowance with a $35,000 claiming option. The prime contenders are Code of Ethics, an easy winner last out in the off-the-turf Summertime Promise; Arsen Annie, who came from far back to nab second in the Illini Princess here three weeks ago; and Miss Sweet Time, winner of consecutive open allowance races.

In his previous Hawthorne start, Wonone, trained by Dale Bennett, easily beat Bigboydancing, who came right back with an easy maiden win of his own. Wonone, by the good young sire Grand Slam, worked a bullet half-mile here since his Churchill fiasco, and with a clean run he is likely to take the measure of the Sunday opener.

Bluesbdancing may run at Charles Town

After the 2-year-old filly Bluesbdancing won the Showtime Deb Stakes here Nov. 13, running her career mark to three wins without a loss, trainer Terrel Gore guessed she was done for the season.

"She came out of the race so good, I'd love to find a place to stretch her out a little," said Gore.

With that in mind, Gore gave Bluesbdancing a half-mile breeze in 49 seconds Friday morning. Bluesbdancing was nominated to the Snow White, a seven-furlong, $50,000 stakes next weekend at Charles Town, and Gore will decide early next week whether or not to ship.

"I'd love to run her [next spring] in the Hawthorne Oaks, if she's good enough for that, but I'd like to find out sometime before then if she's good enough," Gore said. "Right now, we're going to treat her like she's a good horse."