03/11/2005 12:00AM

Zook's shuttle a hit


STICKNEY, Ill. - The horses are racking up the frequent-vanner miles, slogging the 275 miles on I-55 between Fairmount Park and Hawthorne Race Course. The reward: a tide of victories at the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne meet for trainer Jimmy Zook and his owner, William Stiritz.

When Zook-trained, Stiritz-owned horses ran one-two in a maiden race on the Friday card here, it gave the team 6 wins from 13 starters at this meet. The Fairmount-based Zook, who typically runs this many horses here during an entire meet, is tied for third in the trainer standings, just two wins behind the powerhouse barn of Mike Reavis.

"People are kind of amazed, considering we ship every one of them four hours," said Zook.

Stiritz, one of the principal investors in Fairmount, has gradually put together a stable worthy of competing in Chicago, buying lower-tier yearlings who have higher-end pedigrees. They are horses such as Maxi Max, a 3-year-old Quiet American colt who cost a mere $8,000 as a yearling, and blew out a field of maiden route horses here Tuesday. Zook and Stiritz have hopes of running the horse in the Illinois Derby later in the meet.

There also is Wildwood Royal, the stakes-class mare who started her 2005 campaign with a good third here last weekend in an overnight sprint stakes. She came out of the race, Zook said, with some nasal discharge, but no worse for wear. Wildwood Royal's goal is the Grade 3 Sixty Sails on April 23.

"Our herd is stronger right now," said Zook, who worked for 20 years as a blacksmith, and has been training for about a decade now. "We're pretty tickled the way things are going right now."

Sunday, Zook and Stiritz have a contender named Foxie's Boy in the seventh race here, an entry-level sprint allowance for Illinois-bred 3-year-olds. The race shares top billing with a second-level Illinois-bred allowance (race 1).

Foxie's Boy, a Stiritz homebred by Evansville Slew, finished a close fifth of 12 here Feb. 25 in an entry-level allowance restricted to Illinois-breds, but there is more to it than that. Foxie's Boy raced that day against older horses, and the drop into straight 3-year-old company could boost him to victory. Last year, Foxie's Boy won his career debut in an open maiden race at Arlington, and ended his season with a good fourth in the $115,000 Jim Edgar Futurity.

Perez's suspension rescinded

The Illinois Racing Board last week reversed a stewards' ruling from a race last summer at Arlington, rescinding a suspension that had been handed to jockey Eddie Perez.

Perez had been suspended and his mount, Noble Place, disqualified from first to third in the ninth race last July 16, when the Arlington stewards ruled Noble Place fouled a horse named Fumante. Perez appealed the ruling, and the IRB voted to uphold the appeal in a meeting last Tuesday. Purse money for the race, held in escrow pending the appeal, was distributed according to the original order of finish.

The IRB's reversal of the stewards' ruling is a rarity, as appeals regarding disqualifications usually are dismissed.

* Wiggins, one of the best older Illinois-breds in training, had his first work of the season Friday at Hawthorne, going an easy half-mile in 52 seconds.