10/04/2009 11:00PM

Two horses for this course


STICKNEY, Ill. - On March 23, Marilyn's Guy won a two-turn maiden race on Hawthorne Race Course's main track by more than 13 lengths, earning a stakes-class Beyer Speed Figure of 96. Put aside for a moment the fact he has come nowhere close to that performance level in four subsequent starts, because Marilyn's Guy is back at Hawthorne on Wednesday for the first time since, one of seven horses entered in race 3, an entry-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

Marilyn's Guy may be the horse for handicappers who heavily weight proven success over Hawthorne's sometimes-tricky main track. And in race 7, an Illinois-bred second-level allowance, there's another one: Ava Mae is slated to start on the Hawthorne dirt for the first time since she won the $107,000 Pat Whitworth Debutante here last December. Ava Mae may well be better on turf than dirt, but she may be good enough on Hawthorne dirt to score her third career win Wednesday. Ava Mae had outside posts for her last two grass starts during the Arlington meet, and excepting a flop in her lone start over Polytrack, she has held solid form throughout her 2009 campaign. She has tactical speed, and a rider, E.T. Baird, who will not hesitate to use it.

As for Marilyn's Guy, he went off favored in a 10-horse Keeneland entry-level allowance race following his Hawthorne blowout, but finished eighth that day. Back on dirt, Marilyn's Guy ran somewhat better at Churchill Downs in his next start, but when last seen in July, Marilyn's Guy finished a distant third as the even-money favorite at Mountaineer Racetrack. He may, however, be ready for better after an encouraging September work pattern.

Even so, Country Flavor is the pick to win nominally featured race 3. Trainer Greg Geier recommended owner Jim Tafel have unfocused Country Flavor gelded earlier this year, and the son of Empire Maker improved significantly in two late-meet Arlington starts. A return to dirt racing Wednesday could further elevate his game.

Race 4 offers the first chance of 2009 for Chicago 2-year-olds to race around two turns on the main track. The 1 1/16-mile maiden race drew likely favorite Holiday Buzz, narrowly beaten over a one-turn mile last out at Arlington. Holiday Buzz runs for trainer Steve Asmussen, who usually wins a 2-year-old maiden special weight race or two early in the fall meet here.