12/19/2001 12:00AM

Vanier has statebred who rates winter trip to Florida


For Harvey Vanier, the winter routine has pretty much been the same for as long as anyone can remember: Take the best horses to Florida and leave the rest behind in Illinois.

Invariably, many of the horses left behind by Vanier, who has been training since 1942, are homebreds or others without the pedigree or ability to compete against some of North America's best at Gulfstream Park. While Vanier spends most of the winter in Florida, his longtime assistant, Brian Williamson, stays home in Chicago, working quietly behind the scenes at Hawthorne in Stickney, Ill.

Yet every once in a while, an Illinois-bred comes along that Vanier just can't help taking south. And after Saturday, when Mucho Rapido puts his unbeaten streak on the line against fellow Illinois-breds in the $100,000 Jim Edgar Futurity at Hawthorne, the plan is for Mucho Rapido to make a trip to Florida with Vanier, who in recent days has returned to Illinois to spend the Christmas holidays with family.

"Unless something unforeseen happens, that's the plan," said Williamson.

Mucho Rapido, a Senor Speedy colt owned partly by Vanier's wife, Nancy, has been quite impressive in winning his first two starts by a combined 11 1/2 lengths. His second victory came in a Dec. 5 allowance route.

The consensus around Hawthorne seems to be that if Mucho Rapido continues to progress, he might be able to go beyond the usual limitations associated with statebreds.

"We were a little worried about him going two turns because he is by Senor Speedy," said Williamson, alluding to the sire's prowess as a sprinter. "But the way he won his last race, I put that question out of my mind."

The 1 1/16-mile Jim Edgar, named for the former governor of Illinois, is the fourth and last race of the Illinois Stallion Stakes, a December series for statebreds.

The race should provide a worthwhile test for Mucho Rapido, if for no other reason than this: All three preceding races in the Stallion Series resulted in colossal upsets, with Out of Options (14-1) winning the Dec. 1 Little Sucker; Paddy's Spy (25-1) winning the Dec. 8 High Alexander; and White O Morn (30-1) winning the Dec. 15 Illinois Debutante.

The Hawthorne meet runs through Jan. 1, after which Illinois racing takes its customary break before action resumes at Sports-man's Park on March 1.

Goodridge a strong number two

While Tom Tomillo has enjoyed a terrific fall, leading the trainer standings from the start of the meet in late October, another veteran, Ron Goodridge, also has had a memorable meet.

Into the Wednesday program, Goodridge had sent out 17 winners, just five behind Tomillo.

Goodridge generally is known for having a large stable of mostly cheap horses, but he did enjoy considerable success in the early 1990's with Brother Brown, a multiple stakes winner who became something of a legend in Oklahoma.

* Among Hawthorne jockeys, Shane Laviolette, seeking his first riding title anywhere, was clinging to a 39-34 lead over veteran Randy Meier going into Wednesday.

* Longtime Hawthorne official Bob Carey has emerged from his coma and has communicated with family members, said Jim Miller, a track spokesman. Carey has been in intensive care since being badly injured in September in a fall at his summer home in Indiana. "The doctors say he is slowly improving," said Miller.

* Race caller Peter Galassi is drawing positive reviews in his second meet at Hawthorne. Galassi, the longtime race caller at Balmoral harness, also serves as the host of the local replay show, the "Hawthorne Racing Report," and the weekly magazine show, "Behind the Scenes at Hawthorne." Earlier this year, Galassi replaced Vic Stauffer, who calls primarily at Gulfstream and Hollywood Park.

* The Wednesday card was the first of the meet with snow on the ground. The initial snowfall came unusually late in the year.