11/07/2002 1:00AM

Two Item Limit scares no one

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CHICAGO - Two Item Limit's last race came against Horse of the Year hopeful Azeri in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Call the connections of other horses in the Illinois-bred older filly route division unimpressed.

A surprisingly large number of challengers, 10 in all, have assembled to face the heavily favored Two Item Limit in Saturday's $100,000 Illini Princess at Hawthorne.

Illinois's horse of the year last season, Two Item Limit didn't face statebreds until late this summer, when owner Joseph Graffeo and trainer Steve DiMauro shipped her from New York to Arlington to start in an Illinois-bred handicap on Sept. 14. Two Item Limit won in a gallop and used the victory as a springboard to the Breeders' Cup, a race in which she was third in 2001.

But this year's Distaff brought out a crack field, and the slim chance Two Item Limit had going into the race quickly vanished. "She was steadied a little going into the first turn, and they kind of ran away from her after that," DiMauro said. "It seems like the race didn't affect her, or I wouldn't be running her back for this."

A cold weather horse, Two Item Limit had trained strongly going into the Breeders' Cup and without bad luck there's probably no beating her and jockey Rene Douglas in the 1 1/16-mile Princess. Ellie's Rose is the most accomplished challenger, but her best races have come on turf. Tay Laur and Something Wicked are good right now, but these are mid- to high-level claiming horses racing against a graded stakes-caliber filly.

Tic N Tin looks tough

In the six-furlong Lightning Jet, Tic N Tin may be a more solid favorite than he at first appears. A 7-year-old reformed claimer, Tic N Tin didn't even hit peak form until age 6, and this season he has 6 wins in 13 starts. Moreover, his losses have come at distances farther than his best: Tic N Tin is a six-furlong horse through and through, and he needs lesser company to win at seven furlongs and up.

At races 6 1/2 furlongs and under, Tic N Tin has won five of his last six, and his lone loss was a third in the open Arlington Sprint, where Tic N Tin would have been second had he not pressed the crack sprinter Bonapaw on a fast pace.

An Oct. 19 stakes win at The Woodlands probably served as little more than a tightener for Tic N Tin, who is owned and trained by Ron Brandenburg.

Tic N Tin is based at Fairmount Park, and it's from there that two challengers come. Too Many Bucks lost by only a nose to Tic N Tin this past summer at Arlington, while the hot 3-year-old Bulldog George tackles the best field of his short career.

Tejano Honey always fires

The understated trainer Tom Dorris does not waste words, and his characterization of Tejano Honey captures her essence.

"She's consistent, that's for sure," Dorris said.

In 12 starts Tejano Honey has won seven times and never finished worse than third, a sterling record that goes on the line in the six-furlong Powerless for fillies and mares.

Owned by Kammalot Stable, Tejano Honey was solid at age 2 but exceptional this year. She has won five of her last seven races, and her most recent defeat came in the open Prairie Meadows Oaks in early September. "She just runs the same race every time," Dorris said.

That race should be good enough to beat 10 rivals in the Powerless. Shemya or the Fairmount-based Jiroga Lite have a chance at an upset.

Crowded fields of juveniles

If you have a statebred 2-year-old that can run at all, why not take a shot at a $100,000 purse? That's clearly the thinking being employed by the connections of the 22 horses entered in a pair of 2-year-old stakes, the Showtime Deb for fillies and the Sun Power for colts.

Either the Gene Cilio-trained entry of Invader and Oggi, or Cash the Flash should be favored in the Showtime Deb. Both Cilio fillies come out of open allowance races, and Invader also tested open stakes company at Arlington. Cash the Flash is 2 for 2 for trainer Richard Hazelton, though she has beaten suspect opposition in both starts. Julie's Prize remains a maiden but is talented as anyone in the Showtime Deb.

The Hazelton-trained Shandy is the pick to win the Sun Power. Shandy won his career debut and was a close fourth in the Arlington-Washington Futurity while still lacking experience. He beat open company last out in the Prairie Meadows Freshman.