10/31/2007 11:00PM

Win Me Over tops Buck's Boy

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Win Me Over has 2 wins in 9 starts this year, and twice raced for a $35,000 claiming tag this summer at Arlington. The fact that he's one of the major contenders in the Buck's Boy Handicap, one of six Illinois-bred stakes on Saturday at Hawthorne, says much about the lack of strength in the statebred older route division.

Win Me Over is a fine horse in his own right, with a bankroll of almost a quarter-million dollars and a highly memorable win in the Jim Edgar Futurity here in December 2004. Hawthorne, in fact, has played host to 4 of his 6 victories, another reason to take seriously Win Me Over's last-start victory in an open allowance race comparable in quality to the 1 1/16-mile Buck's Boy, which drew nine entrants.

Win Me Over ran down Mare's Ex to win that recent start, but Mare's Ex, a 3-year-old with eight starts, has more room to grow. His trainer, Jim DiVito, regarded Mare's Ex from the beginning as a route horse, but circumstances have limited Mare's Ex to just two two-turn dirt races. That suggests untapped potential, while three published workouts in the four weeks since his last start suggest Mare's Ex enters the Buck's Boy in fine fettle.

Another 3-year-old, Stonehouse, also should have a say. Saddled with the outside post, Stonehouse has enough early speed to get position before the first turn. His Oct. 6 performance in the Indiana Derby was a clunker, but Stonehouse can do better.

Big Rushlet has never run in a two-turn race, and while trainer Christine Janks conceded that "a mile might be his best distance," Big Rushlet is in good form, and has recently faced higher-class open company.

Sun Power: Rocket Rodd faces test

No Illinois-bred 2-year-old has looked sharper in victory this year than Rocket Rodd, but Rocket Rodd is playing catch-up when he faces another talented juvenile, Chief What, in the Sun Power.

It was by design that Rocket Rodd had time off following a seven-length debut win on July 22 at Arlington, but trainer Michele Boyce had planned to get a prep race into him before the Sun Power.

"He just didn't come around as fast when he came back in," said Boyce. "I'd like to have another week with him, but I think he'll give a good accounting of himself. I think DiVito's horse is sitting in a better spot with a race over the track."

DiVito's horse, Chief What, also won his Arlington debut, and came back Sept. 21 to capture an entry-level allowance race here by three lengths. Moreover, Chief What has twice rallied from off the pace, gaining valuable experience, where Rocket Rodd skipped directly to the lead in his lone start and never was challenged. Still, Rocket Rodd has posted strong recent Hawthorne works, and his talent may take him a long way.

There are nine others in the Sun Power, including Penn National shipper Holy Vesper, but so far none has shown as much as the two favorites.

Powerless: Pretty Jenny back in form

Many Chicagoans rue the move to Hawthorne from Arlington Park, but not Pretty Jenny. After struggling to find her best form on Arlington's new Polytrack surface, Pretty Jenny showed she still can produce a top effort with a six-length allowance win in an overnight stakes here Oct. 10. That performance should make her the favorite over old rival Bluesdancing and eight others in the $100,000 Powerless Handicap.

Pretty Jenny had lost her first six starts of 2007 before her last-out breakthrough.

"We always felt that she just didn't kick in on the Poly like she can," trainer Christine Janks said. "She got back to that last time."

Bluesbdancing ran a dull eighth last month in the Grade 3 TCA Stakes at Keeneland, but she has bounced back from similarly poor performances in the past, and is every bit as good as Pretty Jenny on her best day. Trout River Red, Magnetic Miss, and Modjadji - another Janks horse - also are worthy contenders.

Illini Princess: Dyna Slam favored

Dyna Slam's lone win in eight starts this year came way back in February, but she still looks like the favorite in the $100,000 Illini Princess.

Still, Dyna Slam has lost her two starts at Hawthorne, and a wide draw Saturday does her no favors. The field also includes Stop a Train, who won the race last year and got in a much-needed prep race last out at Keeneland.

Showtime Deb: Carbella ships in

The $100,000 Showtime Deb for 2-year-old fillies drew the shortest stakes field of the day, with only seven entered. California invader Carbella was disqualified from a debut win last April, and has never finished behind another horse in four career starts. She may find the deep Hawthorne going - as well as the Showtime Deb's six furlongs - more challenging than the glib West Coast tracks on which she's so far competed.

Sarahlind's Sister, Dodee Gee, and even Cart's Italian Rose all look like legitimate win candidates in the Showtime Deb.