04/05/2006 11:00PM

Two stakes on derby undercard

Sunny Taylor / Coady Photography
Celluloid Hero likes Hawthorne.

CHICAGO - There are 3-year-old sprint stakes this weekend at Hawthorne, Keeneland, and Aqueduct, and apparently there are not quite enough 3-year-old sprinters to go around.

The six-furlong Lost Code, one of two undercard stakes Saturday on Illinois Derby Day, drew only six horses when entries were taken on Tuesday. The purse is $100,000, the timing is good for more important sprint races in the coming weeks, but horsemen from all over responded with a collective shrug.

The Lost Code did get an East Coast shipper, City Dweller, and horseplayers probably will respond favorably to him upon seeing the names of trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Kent Desormeaux, as well as a pair of Beyer Speed Figures in the 90's. But what also stands out is the fact that City Dweller twice has run for a claiming tag, including in his most recent start, when Clement exercised a $100,000 claiming option when City Dweller finished second in an Aqueduct sprint race.

The proven stakes horse in the race is Celluloid Hero, who has book-ended two poor showings around three good ones. A distant fifth in his career debut here last October, Celluloid Hero then won two straight starts at Hawthorne, a maiden race at odds of 9-1, and an allowance race at odds of 21-1. He was 16-1 in his 2006 debut, the Dixieland Stakes at Oaklawn, and Celluloid Hero won that, too. Some combination of a sloppy racetrack and a two-turn trip led to a dismal eighth-place finish in the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 25, but Celluloid Hero has been steadily breezing at Hawthorne, and should bounce back with his return to a sprint.

"He's been training well," said trainer Hugh Robertson. "I hope the race has a speed duel in it. That would help him."

The Lost Code also includes the minor stakes winner Don't Tell Mommy from the Steve Assmusen barn; Spotsgone, a recent Oaklawn allowance winner; Singalongwith-bert, a winner of two straight races in West Virginia; and Rochester Cat, who won an Illinois-bred maiden race March 4 in excellent time.

Victornia no cinch in Meafara

National Jockey Club racing officials had hoped last year to attract Lost in the Fog to the Lost Code Stakes on Illinois Derby Day. It's a year later, and a different race, but the Lost in the Fog people, owner Harry Aleo, trainer Greg Gilchrist, and jockey Russell Baze, do have a horse to run at Hawthorne. Her name is Victorina, and she looks like the favorite Saturday in the $100,000 Meafara Stakes.

Victorina had a cough last week that nearly kept her home at Golden Gate Fields, but she made the trip to Hawthorne on Tuesday, traveling with Illinois Derby favorite Cause to Believe, who Baze will also ride. Victorina has won 3 of her 4 starts, and was a close second in her only loss, but beat only five rivals while narrowly winning her only stakes race, and is far from a lock in the six-furlong Meafara.

Robertson, in fact, has a potential upsetter here in the locally based Grandelena, who finished second while facing older horses here March 17 in a second-level sprint allowance.

"I think she probably needed that race," Robertson said. "She'd been down at Hot Springs, and she didn't train very well down there, but she's been doing better since she's been up here."

Trainer Brian Williamson has two horses for the Meafara, and while Lampoon is farther along in her development, My Chickadee is long on talent. She basically did everything wrong in her career debut March 24, winning by more than three lengths anyway, but My Chickadee can't afford missteps as she steps up in class Saturday.

Also worthy of careful consideration is the Steve Asmussen-trained Readyforcocktails, whose two trips during the Oaklawn Park meet were far less than ideal.