10/31/2007 12:00AM

Wiggins conspicuous by absence

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Saturday's six Illinois-bred stakes were drawn on Wednesday - and times, they are a-changin'.

First off, the race for older males around two turns on dirt has a new name, the Bucks Boy. More surprising than that, Wiggins wasn't one of the nine horses entered in the Bucks Boy.

Call it the end of an era. Wiggins has been based in Kentucky with Dale Romans since July 2005, but has been a regular in Hawthorne's fall Illinois-bred route stakes for longer than that. He won the race as a 3-year-old in 2003, was third in 2004, won again in 2005, and was second last year.

In his most recent trip to Hawthorne, Wiggins won the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap last April by more than 10 lengths.

But Wiggins hasn't worked since finishing a dull sixth of nine as the favorite in the Oct. 6 Schaefer Mile at Hoosier Park, ending the annual quandary of whether to take the short price on Wiggins, or try and beat him. Without Wiggins, who knows who will be favored in the Bucks Boy. Big Rushlet has good recent form, but lacks two-turn experience. Stonehouse exits the Grade 2 Indiana Derby, but ran poorly there. Win Me Over and Mare's Ex just ran one-two in a local third-level allowance race; both qualify as contenders.

The Showtime Deb for 2-year-old fillies drew a surprisingly short field of seven, but has one of the few out-of-town shippers, Carbella, who brings strong California sprint form to town. The 2-year-old male race drew a bigger field of 11, with only eight in the Lightning Jet for older male sprinters. Both older female races, the Illini Princess at 1 1/16 miles and the Powerless at six furlongs, drew large, competitive fields.

Catalano gives vacation to two stars

Two of owner Frank Calabrese's stable stars are on R & R, while 2-year-old filly Dreaming of Liz remains active in late autumn. Meanwhile, the amazing Wayne Catalano stable keeps churning out Chicago wins, heading into this week's racing at Hawthorne tied for the lead among local trainers.

Catalano said Wednesday morning at his Hawthorne barn that both Dreaming of Anna, who was second last out in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, and Lewis Michael, who finished fifth last Friday in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, have been turned out for "a couple months, maybe six weeks."

Both horses are at a Kentucky farm, and went there in good physical condition, Catalano said. While Dreaming of Anna raced under normal circumstances, Lewis Michael was part of the Breeders' Cup weekend slop-fest, and ran under trying conditions in the BC Dirt Mile.

"It was horrible," Catalano said.

Dreaming of Liz, meanwhile, failed to earn her way to the BC Juvenile Fillies with a poor effort last out in the Alcibiades Stakes after a front-running win in the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes. She remains in training in Kentucky, however, and could try an overnight turf stakes at Churchill later this month, Catalano said.

Back at Hawthorne, Catalano has been going great guns, with 15 wins from only 45 starters at the meet, good for a tie with Frank Kirby atop the trainer standings. Of those 45 starters, 32 have finished third or better, and despite setting a torrid pace the last couple months of the Arlington meet, Catalano has managed to keep Calabrese's stable rolling through the fall.

"We didn't save anything over [at Arlington], that's for sure," Catalano said. "We're just doing the same things we always do."

Fort Prado back on short rest

Fort Prado, whose form has leapt forward with a switch to turf sprints this summer, bounced right back from his snappy win in the Woodford Stakes on Oct. 18 at Keeneland, and is headed back to Kentucky for Sunday's Cherokee Run at Churchill, trainer Chris Block said Wednesday.

Block had said even before the Woodford that he planned to wheel Fort Prado right back into action if the horse was ready and willing, and that has indeed been the case.

"He came out of that race in real good shape," Block said.

Block also is making plans for the talented but fragile Iosilver, who returned from a long layoff to score an easy allowance-race victory here on Sunday. A Grade 3-class horse at this best, Iosilver could go either to Oaklawn Park or Fair Grounds for a winter campaign, Block said.

Block is light on runners in Saturday's Illinois-bred stakes, but his lone starter, Shrewd Operator, should be tough in the Lightning Jet.

Caruso will miss Lightning Jet

Caruso struggled to show his best on Polytrack over the summer at Arlington, and just as he was set to return to stakes company on his favorite surface, the Hawthorne dirt, Caruso popped an abscess in a hind hoof and will miss Saturday's Lightning Jet Handicap.

Tough luck for trainer Richard Hazelton, but Hazelton may have another crack Illinois-bred sprinter waiting in the wings in Island Rum. After finishing third in his career debut, Island Rum won an Illinois-bred maiden race last Saturday by six lengths.

* After a slow start to the meet, Chris Emigh has forged to the front of the jockey standings, coming into this week tied for leading rider with Tim Thornton, who has rebounded after having his momentum slowed by injury. Both had ridden 30 winners through Sunday.