11/08/2006 1:00AM

Zippy Slew after big bucks for small outfit


CHICAGO - Todd Pletcher does not have even one horse for the six Illinois-bred stakes races on tap Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course. It is not that kind of day. Illinois-bred days in Chicago dole out big money to the little guy - $100,000 a pop in this case. And few on the circuit are operating on a smaller scale than trainer George King, who has started only 26 horses in 2006. King has managed six wins, one-third of the total courtesy of a one-time maiden claimer named Zippy Slew, who actually has a shot Saturday in the High Alexander Stakes.

There could be as few as seven or as many as 10 in the High Alexander, which features the best-known horse of the day, Wiggins, who is scheduled to ship in from trainer Dale Romans's base at Churchill Downs.

There are various others, ranging from fairly decent to quite nice, expected for the other events, too.

The Showtime Deb for 2-year-old fillies figures to have a full, inscrutable field. The Sun Power for 2-year-old males pits undefeated Caruso against undefeated Chillin Villain, with plenty of others in the mix. Bluesbdancing, Pretty Jenny, and Taylor Madison square off in the Powerless Handicap, while High Expectations will try to duplicate a recent last-to-first allowance-race rally in the Lightning Jet Handicap. Trainer Scott Blasi has two contenders for the Illini Princess, Dyna Slam and Rolling Sea, but Unreal Rocket could be the horse to beat in that race.

Which brings us back round to Zippy Slew, who six months ago was claimed by King out of a loss in an Illinois-bred $10,000 maiden claimer.

"You know, he had two fourths and two seconds against maiden special weights, so he looked like he might be worth it," said King. "We have a horse named Sara's Tune by the same stud [Evansville Slew], and we claimed her for $10,000 and made about $160,000 with her."

Zippy Slew finished 10th in his first start for King, but by August at Arlington he had won a seven-furlong Illinois-bred straight maiden race, and the farther Zippy Slew ran, the better he got. Racing two turns on dirt, Zippy Slew has rolled through his two Illinois allowance conditions at this Hawthorne meet, most recently winning by four lengths with a powerful move from the quarter pole to the finish.

"When we finally got him stretched out, that was the thing with him," said King. "We were almost sure he'd run long."

Zippy Slew can go far enough. The question he has to answer Saturday is whether he can run fast enough.

Bittersweet for Block

Trainer Chris Block was on hand for the Fasig-Tipton sale Sunday night near Lexington, Ky., and he watched with particular interest when the 3-year-old filly Vacare went into the sales ring. It was Block, after all, who had overseen the development of Vacare, who capped an undefeated season with a win last month in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland. But while Block had to be rooting for owner Bob Lothenbach to score a big hit, he also knew very well that if Lothenbach got his asking price, Vacare would almost certainly take up residence in the barn of another trainer, one based at a more major venue than Chicago. And Vacare was a hit in the ring, fetching a winning bid of $2.8 million, a home run for owner-breeder Lothenbach, a Minnesota-based businessman long involved in racing, but more recently invested in the breeding side of the game. When Vacare races again, it will be for trainer Christophe Clement.

"It's bittersweet," Block said Wednesday. "Believe me, I miss her a lot already. But I think that was a very strong price for her. When you can turn a profit like that, it's something you need to do. You wish the people that bought her the best of luck. I'll be rooting for her."

Block's cupboard, of course, is far from bare, though it is getting to be his slow time of year. Block himself stays year round in Chicago, though some of his horses will go on to Fair Grounds for the winter. Among them is Fort Prado, who was withdrawn from consideration for last week's River City Stakes at Churchill and instead is spending 30 days on the Block family farm near Ocala, Fla.

"He'll go back in training and head to Fair Grounds," said Block.

Fort Prado will be trained there by Jeff Trosclair, who had him last winter. The resurgent Block homebred Mystery Giver will ship south with trainer Richie Scherer.

Coach Jimi Lee to De Francis

Trainer Jim DiVito confirmed that he plans to ship Coach Jimi Lee to Laurel Park for the Grade 1 De Francis Dash on Nov. 25.

"He's training real well; everything's good," said DiVito, who plans to ship Coach Jimi Lee by van four or five days before the De Francis.

* The Friday feature is race 4, a second-level, six-furlong allowance that drew an evenly matched field of seven.