11/05/2003 12:00AM

Wiggins should handle longshots

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Horsemen with an Illinois-bred who can run at all will seriously consider Saturday's Illinois Festival of Racing, which comprises six $100,000 stakes races restricted to statebreds. Taking a flier with a longshot makes sense when the horse can compete for such a high purse.

But the trainers who might enter an outsider in the Robert F. Carey II Handicap tend to begin their stories the same way: "I know Wiggins is running, but . . . "

Yes, Wiggins is running, and if the signals given by trainer Tony Granitz's barn are credible, the longshots have their work cut out.

"The horse worked so good the other day, and he's just been training so well," said Granitz. "After he galloped today, the exercise boy said, 'He's so sharp, we need to lock him up.' "

Wiggins's 59-second breeze at five furlongs here Monday was faster than many races over this surface. Wiggins is coming off a fifth-place finish Oct. 4 in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby, where he was hung out wide on an inside-speed favoring racetrack, but had won two straight open stakes races before that start. With four wins in six starts this season, Wiggins is in a race with Mystery Giver and Summer Mis for Illinois horse of the year.

The locals will get a firsthand look at Wiggins on Saturday.

"It was between this and the Oklahoma Derby, and that's only $50,000 and out of town, so we're staying here," Granitz said.

Granitz said he isn't looking past Saturday but may reconsider the plan to put Wiggins away for the winter after this start.

"When a horse is doing this good, it's hard to stop on them," he said.

As of Wednesday there were nine other horses listed as probable starters in the 1 1/16-mile Carey: Baker Road, Oza, Smilin' Slew, Claseybeat, Paddy's Spy, Scooter Roach, Big Bold Sweep, Crack the Vault, and Rufus the Glider. Garesche is also possible.

Lightning Jet features two best

Only six horses are expected Saturday in the six-furlong Lightning Jet, but the prospective field includes Out of My Way and Bulldog George, the two best sprinters in Illinois.

Out of My Way and Bulldog George started last at Keeneland, and neither had a favorable trip. Bulldog George found traffic trouble at a key point in a high-end allowance and wound up second, but that was nothing like what happened to Out of My Way in the Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup. Out of My Way, an easy winner of the Arlington sprint in late August, was slammed against the rail shortly after the start of the Phoenix. He ran on to finish fifth.

"I thought he'd be body-sore coming out of the Keeneland race, but he went back to training like nothing had happened," said Andy Hansen, an assistant to trainer Gene Cilio.

Meanwhile, Bulldog George is training away at Fairmount Park, and he did something this week that he normally doesn't do - he breezed.

"I don't really like to let him work much at all," said trainer Jimmy Wiser. "It's a deep, loose surface at Fairmount. He has strong gallops, and does some work at a two-minute clip. I put air into him that way."

Others expected for the Lightning Jet are Silver Bid, the likely pacesetter; Classic Appeal; Magic Doe; and Unlock the Vault.

Springer stays for Jaguar Friend

Young Ben Allen, trainer Bobby Springer's nephew and assistant, figures to be spending the holidays at Hawthorne.

"Because of him," said Allen, pointing to a 2-year-old colt named Jaguar Friend, "I'll probably be here through Christmas."

Springer has already driven south to Fair Grounds, and Allen eventually will join the stable there, but he must oversee Jaguar Friend's preparations for the Sun Power Stakes. If Jaguar Friend runs well Saturday, he will stick around to start Dec. 20 in the Jim Edgar Futurity.

A west wind blew the season's coldest air across the Hawthorne backstretch Wednesday morning, but the Springer shed row was warm enough, and it will be worth sticking around for Jaguar Friend.

At $40,000, Jaguar Friend fetched big money at Arlington's annual sale of horses of racing age this summer. Beaten a half-length in his career debut after making all the running from the rail, Jaguar Friend returned Oct. 13 and won his maiden by almost nine lengths.

"He could have gone backward at any time, but he hasn't," Allen said. "We've gotten lucky with this colt. He's gotten better every day since we had him."

Twelve horses are expected for the Sun Power. Persuaggle, an open allowance winner in his last start, is Jaguar Friend's main rival.

Icanhaul makes turf debut

It will be dark and cold at Hawthorne's featured race Friday, an entry-level grass allowance that goes as the last of 10 races.

At one mile, the race has a full field and any number of ways to turn, but Icanhaul looks especially interesting.

Making her turf debut after a fourth-place finish in a dirt sprint, Icanhaul is by Deerhound, whose horses have been performing well on turf, and out of a mare by Dynaformer, a strong grass influence.