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Saturday, November 25, 2017
Hawthorne (Hawthorne Gold Cup day)
Today’s the biggest day of the Hawthorne fall meet: Gold Cup day! It’s just one of three stakes on a nine-race program in Chicagoland, with plenty of big fields and great betting opportunities awaiting. First post time will be 3:10 PM CST.
We’re happy to welcome back Nicolle Neulist (@rogueclown) to provide FREE picks & analysis of all the action. Nicolle’s one of racing twitter’s authorities on the racing in Illinois, and we’re thrilled to feature their thoughts on the Gold Cup card. Be sure to give Nicolle a follow on twitter for Hawthorne updates throughout the day.
Take it away, Nicolle!
Saturday is the biggest day of the meet at Hawthorne. The card is anchored by the Grade 3 Hawthorne Gold Cup, a Classic-distance race for older horses, and also features a pair of sprint stakes for older Illinois-registered horses. The day’s nine-race card features full fields and live price horses all day — so let’s dive in!
Show Me Your Single: Race 4 – Puntsville (3)
Longshot Specials: Race 3 – Career Girl (9), Race 9 – Homer (8)
Race 1: $15,000 claiming, N2L, three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf, post time 3:10pm CST
Selections: Day of Thunder (12), Sea Rover (8), Greyt Oak (6)
When Chris Block skips a condition, you’re wise to give that horse a long look. He does just that with Day of Thunder — a lightly-raced maiden facing N2L horses here. He showed nothing on debut last month, but that outing came on the dirt. However, Day of Thunder’s breeding is turf, top and bottom. With Block’s “A” rider Jose Lopez back in the irons, this son of Fort Prado should be ready to make better account of himself. Trainer Brian Williamson has a pair in here; the better-situated of the two looks to be Sea Rover. With tactical speed in a race without a ton of pace, it should set up well. And, though he was third at this level last out, that was a washed-off dash race. Call that a tune-up, and toss it. Long on grass is his game, and anything near his better form makes him a threat here. Greyt Oak flopped in the mud a week ago against $5,000 N2L company, but should be better on the move back to grass. Trainer Michael Reavis excels both with horses moving dirt to turf, and with runners taking jumps up in class, and can win with them at prices. He needs to bring his best, but at the price, he’ll be worth a shot in this weak field.
Race 2: $5,000 claiming, fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races since May 25 OR non-winners of three races in 2016-2017 OR N4L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt, post itme 3:38pm CST
Selections: Shut the Gate (3), Queen of Wildwood (7), Lady Dozer (1)
Shut the Gate lost her rider last out, but two back she finished clearly second at this distance behind the red-hot Pomeroys Uprising. Since then, Pomeroys Uprising has won her next two starts, one more at Hawthorne and one at Mahoning. Shut the Gate gets a rider upgrade to Jose Lopez, and has won four of 11 starts in dash-distance dirt races. With tactical speed, as long as Lopez stays aboard, Shut the Gate should be in the picture at the end.
Queen of Wildwood has strong form over the course, with two wins and another two money finishes in five tries. She also has a win last year going five furlongs on the Hawthorne main, as well as a second by just a nose going five and a half furlongs at this level last out. Queen of Wildwood also comes out for excellent connections — trainer Scott Becker and rider Victor Santiago. Don’t take the loss of Chris Emigh in the irons as a negative — Emigh has packed off to the Fair Grounds, and Santiago rides as often for Becker as Emigh does.
Finally, there is quite a bit of speed in this race, and dash-distance dirt races have been uncharacteristically friendly to off-pace horses this meet. With that, inside-drawn Lady Dozer has an outside shot. She’s as solid a closer as this field has — and though she doesn’t always get there, she finishes often enough in the frame to merit a chance. She did win last out, and though she cuts back half a furlong from that outing, she has hit the board in 10 of 19 main-track dashes.
Race 3: Allowance, fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once other than claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, one mile on the turf, post time 4:06pm CST
Selections: Career Girl (9), Tannah’blu (8), Air Turbulence (3)
Something Kinky looks the class of the field, but with so much other speed to keep her company up front, this is the right spot to take a stand against her and to go for an off-pace runner instead. Career Girl comes into this race with good form from Indiana Grand — and at anywhere close to her 20/1 morning line, she provides value galore. Her late pace in her best efforts is as good as anyone’s here, and each of her last four tries have been strong turf mile efforts. Most of them were in claimers, but last out she stepped into allowance-optional company and missed by just a half-length. The biggest question here is rider Eduardo Perez’s low percentage on turf, but since Perez has been aboard Career Girl for her last three starts, it seems he has her figured out even on the green stuff.
Tannah’blu has rounded into great form over the last few months, and has developed a wicked closing kick. This is a step up in class for her, from state-bred allowance to open, but she is fast enough and has the right running style to win in this spot. Air Turbulence has been a dependable turf miler, with a win and two seconds in her three tries at the distance. Her off-pace style should sit the setup she gets here, and even though so many of her recent races have been in claiming company, she consistently runs races good enough to make her competitive here.
Race 4: Powerless Handicap, Illinois-registered fillies, three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 4:34pm CST
Selections: Puntsville (3), Kalispell (1), Jolee (5)
Though Puntsville is saddled with 126 pounds — between 10 and 14 more than any of her foes — she was a rocket out of the gate last out while carrying 124, and the likes of Kalispell and Shar Ran are not likely to be fast enough to put much of a fight to her early. Even if they do, Puntsville has survived speed duels with even better, and cold days at Hawthorne can be quite friendly to speed. Though a win may be tough for Kalispell, she has been in career form this meet, and has found her best going on the Hawthorne main. Though trying to duel with Puntsville means a likely fade, if Kalispell can rate and rally as she did two back, she can finish in the frame at attractive odds.
Jolee’s form is a bit muddled, but the best races of her career have come going one turn over the Hawthorne dirt. With a few races under her through the fall she should be fit. She made a game try last out at two turns, and the cut back to a sprint should bring out the best in this daughter of star Illinois-bred sprinter Summer Mis.
Race 5: Maiden special weight, Illinois-registered two-year-olds, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:02pm CST
Selections: Donivan My Boy (4), Im the Best I Know (6), Prince Abubu (11)
Donivan My Boy just missed against open maiden special weight company on grass last out. Here he drops in against state-breds for the first time in his career, and gets a positive rider change to Jose Lopez. Lopez has won both his tries for trainer Doug Matthews in the last two months, and is winning at a 23% clip on the meet. The move to dirt should also help Donivan My Boy; his only half-sibling to race is a winner on dirt. Im the Best I Know scratched out of the Sun Power Stakes last week, and runs here instead. He was exposed last out as a need-to-lead type — but, there is an excellent chance he does get the lead here. The winner of his last race, Run For Charlie, did hold on for a credible fourth in the Sun Power, another thing in Im the Best I Know’s favor. Prince Abubu comes out of the same race as Im the Best I Know, and actually finished second in that spot.
The question for Prince Abubu is the pace, as he’ll need someone to take it to Im the Best I Know early. But, if that happens? He has been firing well in his last two starts, both on dirt and both with Javier Diego aboard, and a run back to those outings makes him competitive here.
Race 6: Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G3), three-year-olds and up, one and one quarter miles on the dirt, post time 5:30pm CST
Selections: Futile (2), Scuba (8), Eagle (5)
Futile loves to win horse races — in twelve career starts, he has six win photos. He will be forward in a race without a ton of speed, but he does not need the lead. Though his dam was a graded stakes-winning sprinter, the son of Broken Vow has stretched out well as this year has gone on, and comes out for strong first-off-the-claim trainer Chris Hartman. Scuba and Eagle will likely be the favourites — and though it would be no surprise to see either of them win, both have enough questions to make it attractive to take that price shot with Futile. Scuba’s form has been spotty at best this year — but, he will be forward in a race without a ton of early speed, and his ability to get a mile and a quarter (or more) is beyond question. That gives him the slight nod over the other marquee shipper, Eagle. Yes, Eagle has been in slightly better form than Scuba this year, and gets a bit of a class drop. The question is whether he can stay the distance — but, with his attempts at or near the Classic distance having come against better, his class still has a chance to carry him.
Race 7: Allowance, fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once other than claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:58pm CST
Selections: My Darling Sofia (1), How Sweet It Is (5), Desert Thief (8)
My Darling Sofia steps up from a state-bred allowance victory into open allowance company. Both of her starts at Hawthorne have been sharp this meet — they’ve been her first two on dirt, and have proven her aptitude for the surface. Though others in this field have shown some speed, My Darling Sofia looks the speed of the speed, and should be able to send from the rail and assert herself as the one everyone else has to catch. The most likely one to catch her is How Sweet It Is, the better of two entrants from trainer Scott Becker. The daughter of Scat Daddy has been second at this level, distance, and surface in her last two starts. She adds blinkers here for the first time in her career — a 31% winning move for trainer Scott Becker.
Whether that will make her quite as fast early as My Darling Sofia is a question, but if not, How Sweet It Is has already prove that she can make good account of herself while pressing or stalking. Outside-drawn Desert Thief failed as the odds-on favorite at this level last out, and has tables to turn on How Sweet It Is from that outing. Yet, it was her first race since August, so perhaps she needed it. That was also over a good surface — her off-track breeding isn’t great, so she should improve on the return to a fast track. Trainer James DiVito is a 24% winner second off the lay, and Desert Thief has posted a sharp five-furlong drill since that effort. On pace, she has proven tactical speed, and the outside post should help her get a clean trip.
Race 8, Lightning Jet Handicap, Illinois-registered three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 6:26pm CST
Selections: Devileye (4), Goneghost (1), Armando’s Star (7)
This race has a plethora of speed — even if one of the two Scott Becker speedballs defects, there’s enough to set up nicely for the ever-consistent Devileye. He is a closer who always fires, and he has proven similarly effective at one turn or two. He has tables to turn on Goneghost, but on the move back to a dry track and given the fact that there will be more pace here, Devileye can do just that. Goneghost still rates a chance, however. The consistent son of Cherokee Rap is the speed of the speed, even on the cutback from a route to a sprint. Armando’s Star has been in strong form over the last few months — the grey has won two of his last three starts after going winless for over two years. The outside post should suit his stalk-and-pounce style well, and should set him up for a clean trip.
Race 9: Allowance, Illinois-registered three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once OR non-winners of a state-bred race other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, six and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 6:54pm CST
Selections: Homer (8), R Fast Life (10), Iter (1)
Usually, in six-and-a-half-furlong races, I tend to gravitate toward the horse for the distance. That’s Smokey Row Mac — but his recent form has been getting progressively worse since the move to the Tom Dorris barn, making him tough to like — especially since one of those outings during the form slide came over seven furlongs at Arlington, a track where he has some solid enough races.
Instead, take a look at Homer. He finished second behind an in-form Flashdance Road two back, in his only six-and-a-half-furlong try. That was across town at Arlington, but his only start over fast dirt was a victory at Hawthorne last November. He is a closer who reliably fires, he will get plenty of pace in front of him, and he has an excellent chance to upset the nightcap. R Fast Life has a pair of strong races since moving to the barn of Mike Reavis, and he is another who will appreciate having quite a bit of pace in front of him. He has never missed the board in four starts over the Hawthorne main, and both of his career wins have come over the course. The question is the distance — though R Fast Life is the class of the field, he has not yet proven that he is as potent going an extended sprint trip as he is going a flat six panels. Drawn on the inside is Iter. He has caught slop in his last two starts, and his off-pace running style may be better served with the fast track he catches here. Even so, he did improve late in both of those starts on an off track, suggesting he is in good enough form. This will be Iter’s first try going six ad a half furlongs, or any kind of extended one-turn trip — but, being by stellar extended sprint sire Munnings, he has every right to take to it.