10/26/2008 11:00PM

Unreal Rocket needs to go for lead

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STICKNEY, Ill. - If Unreal Rocket can reach back into the past and retrieve the early speed she used to show, she has a chance to wire the field in the featured fourth race on Wednesday at Hawthorne. If she cannot - who knows what will happen in this third-level sprint allowance race also open to $40,000 claimers.

Seven were entered in the Wednesday feature, and Unreal Rocket is one of three starting under the race's claiming option. That means she's taking a potentially meaningful class drop after trying a two-turn restricted turf stakes (too far and too tough, that spot) here earlier this meet, and racing in an allowance race with a $62,500 claiming option two starts ago at Hawthorne. The last time Unreal Rocket showed up for a $40,000 tag, she won a turf sprint at Woodbine by more than three lengths.

In that Woodbine turf-sprint win, Unreal Rocket led virtually from start to finish, and such a trip is possible again Wednesday, since the race lacks real pace. Unreal Rocket has not raced at Hawthorne in quite a while, but she has made 6 of her 7 main-track starts here, and was on or near the lead in all of them. Taken back off the pace in her two most recent races, Unreal Rocket could return to front-running tactics and race effectively on Wednesday.

Still, it's hard to call Unreal Rocket anything like a solid play, and the race could unfold under any number of scenarios. Whataclassybroad should take money, since she finished third to the nice sprinting filly Palanka City in an overnight stakes here Sept. 27. But Whataclassybroad has turned in career-best performances in her two most recent starts, and could regress this time.

Missy Biscuit did not quite show her best when she finished third under these conditions on Oct. 11, but is eligible to rebound with a more competitive effort. And late-running Ripe Tomato is only two races removed from an Arlington victory over foes comparable to those she faces Wednesday.

Purse cuts begin Saturday

The newest Hawthorne condition book, which starts with the racing program on Saturday, shows purse cuts for most divisions here. Purses have been dropped by $1,000 for open maidens and in claiming races, and by $2,000 in open allowance races. An entry-level allowance purse worth $28,000 this week will be dropped to $26,000 in the new book; third-level allowance horses run for just $28,000. Hawthorne has held the line with Illinois-bred maidens and allowance horses, which, combined with claimers, are the bread and butter of the fall-winter meet.

Rider, trainer races hotly contested

One word covers the top of both the local jockey and trainer standings at the moment: crowded.

Co-leading trainers Moises Yanez and Mike Reavis each have eight wins so far, but there are 18 other trainers within four wins of the lead. And on the jockeys' side, four riders are within two wins of the top, with Inez Karlsson holding a one-win lead, 22-21, over Eddie Razo and Chris Emigh. Tim Thornton has 20 wins through Sunday's racing.

The somewhat surprising name among leading jockeys is Razo, who has had good Oaklawn meets the last two winters, but generally has ridden less at Hawthorne in the fall than he once did. Indeed, Razo has between 46 and 60 fewer mounts than the other three riders in the leading group, but has won races at a much higher percentage.