Illinois Champions Day Preview

Illinois Champions Day Preview

We head into closing weekend at Hawthorne Race Course of the Spring 2011 meet. This weekend, the Illinois-Breds get a chance to shine. It’s the first of three days devoted to them, this one being Illinois Champions Day.

Along with the six stakes, the 2011 Illinois Champions (Illinois Horse of the Year, Illinois Turf Male, etc.) will be honored throughout the day.  The six-pack of stakes is also a nice handicapping tune-up for the stakes-laden Kentucky Oaks Day and Kentucky Derby Day programs the following Saturday.

Take note that all six of the stakes will be contested on the dirt and carry a $125,000 purse.

Race 3 – Peach of It Handicap – 1 1/16 miles – post time of 2:40 CT.

Our first stakes is for older females, in honor of the Illinois-Bred 1992 G3 Sixty Sails Handicap winner.

There looks to be a good bit of front speed in here, so let’s try a closer. An infrequent winner, AMERICA’S BLOSSOM won three back in an N2X/$35K AOC (and you could have had her for $35,000), was second in this race last year, and her only bad recent race was on a windy day early in the meet where she was disqualified to sixth. Leading rider Torres takes the mount for Kirby, they’re one-for-four this meet. Trainer C. Janks always is a threat on these state-bred programs, she enters PATHWAY here. Unseen since last September at Arlington, she was a cut below the best local turf females (Romin Robin, Askbut I Wonttell), but was third in this race last year. Has three wins and a third in six starts at Hawthorne. DUNKALK DUST ran a clunker of a fifth in the Illini Princess for state-breds last fall, and then won an upper-crust AOC. She faced some tough ladies at Tampa (Arena Elvira, Zagora), and maybe coming back home will help.

#1 AMERICA’S BLOSSOM (9/2)

#5 PATHWAY (2/1)

#6 DUNKALK DUST (7/2)

Longshot: Seeing as how the rail horse wins as often as the Cubs, let’s go fishing. Although trainer Jere R. Smith, Jr. has only seven starts at Hawthorne this meet, there are two wins and two seconds. When Smith teams with Inez Karlsson, they’ve hit three times out of seven starts in the past year. I know she’s a maiden winner taking on winners first time, but #7 SAINT INDEED (10/1) is from this team and you’ll get your high odds.

Race 4 – Pretty Jenny Stakes – 6 furlongs – post time of 3:10 CT.

This sprint stakes for sophomore fillies honors the Christine Janks-trained, Illinois-bred earner of over $500K.

Sometimes it pays to be clever. Sometimes it doesn’t. This race is a case of both, as REMEMBERMEALWAYS has speed figures that would, on paper, cream this field. But REMEMBERMEALWAYS was cashing checks in allowance races against older horses, and now she’s in here against her own age group. Seven of eight in the money at Hawthorne, never out of the superfecta in her career, and the Meier/Lunsford team are zipping along at 21% winners in Stickney with a bang-up ROI. The figures will make her the favorite, but I like that she was hangin’ tough against older. 2011 Illinois Juvenile Filly Champion CLASS BREAK returns in this spot. She had the right stuff and won the Showtime Deb sprinting and the Whitworth Debutante routing. CLASS BREAK took advantage of two different pace scenarios to score those two victories last fall at Hawthorne. Geroux and Catalano stay together on this filly. After getting soundly beaten in the G3 Honeybee, OUR DOMAIN came back to Hawthorne and won an N2X allowance, beating fellow entrant REMEMBERMEALWAYS and older foes. While the record and team are admirable, she got a free lunch on the front end last out. She’ll have to pass (or hold off runners in the lane) to be this race’s cover girl.

#1 REMEMBERMEALWAYS (5/2)

#7 CLASS BREAK (6/1)

#4 OUR DOMAIN (3/1)

Longshot: Don’t think any of the new kids on the block are good enough. Moving on…

Race 6 – Land of Lincoln Stakes – 6 furlongs – post time of 4:10 CT.

The male complement of the Pretty Jenny. Think this race is a toss-up between the 1-3 finishers of a state-bred N2X allowance on the Illinois Derby Day undercard. Both REPORT CARD and FEELS LIKE FLYING were three-year-olds taking on the elders. The former went gate to wire while the latter ran evenly around. We’ll take REPORT CARD as the speed of what appears to be a paceless affair. Second time off the layoff and Torres takes the call.  Like the figure progression from two to three. FEELS LIKE FLYING was second in the Sun Power last fall to fellow entrant SWEET LUCA. Goes third off the layoff, should get first run on the turn, and shows a bullet work on April 19th. This one has an all-female jockey/trainer team come together, with Homeister taking the call for Janks. The Block/Perez team that is winning at a 29% clip at Hawthorne brings you SWEET LUCA, who upset the Sun Power last fall at 15-1. Never been worse than second when sprinting, has Block’s first call rider, and has been working regularly over the spring.

#1 REPORT CARD (7/2)

#8 FEELS LIKE FLYING (5/2)

#5 SWEET LUCA (6/1)

Longshot: Trainer and breeder John Haran often plies his trade in basement claimers and is winning at a decent 14% clip. He attracts apprentice A. Contreras to ride #9 WHISPERING BREEZE (15-1). That team is hitting at 18%. True, his only win was four starts ago in a $15,000 maiden claimer. However, he goes second off the shelf and goes to an outside post. Think if Contreras puts him just off the lead, he can run evenly from the first flight and hold off the closers; perhaps even take this stakes down.

Race 7 – Governor’s Lady Handicap – 6 furlongs – post time of 4:40 CT.

The first of two stakes for older sprinters, this one is for the ladies. WILD HOPE gets back to Hawthorne after two meh efforts at Oaklawn. With eleven money finishes in all eleven starts at Hawthorne, she’s certainly in the mix. I think the pace will be more favorable to her today, and she won the Murphy last summer closing on an Arlington polytrack that was a carousel that day. When most of this field gathered last fall in the Powerless, THIRD CHANCE went gate to wire at 1-2 odds and won by a half dozen. A slam dunk that October day, she went on to show nothing in the G3 Sugar Swirl. Toss the Gulfstream grass sprint, and you have a horse that’s done nothing wrong on the local female sprinting circuit. I think she might have a lost little starch since her three year old campaign, and she got a free lunch on the front end last October. Her beating WILD HOPE wouldn’t be a surprise. MISSJEANLOUISE won a first-level allowance two back and had to rally from 39th street last time in a second-level allowance. Gets a rider upgrade moving from Vega to Geroux. All five of her career wins have been at Hawthorne, and she’s seven of eight in the money as well on the local dirt.

#2 WILD HOPE (8/1)

#8 THIRD CHANCE (3/1)

#4 MISSJEANLOUISE (9/2)

Longshot: She might need one as she makes her first start in eighteen months, but #9 SWEET LEMON CHELLO (15/1) was competitive then in state-bred stakes. She switches to the P. Darjean barn, a barn with sixteen starts and a 4-2-1 (W-P-S) record, good for 25% winners and 44% in the money. Solid work pattern and note that the trainer is 27% winners with an ROI approaching +$8 going route to sprint. These state-bred sprint stakes are often fodder for bombs, and C. Roman may be its pilot.

Race 8 – Robert S. Molaro Handicap – 6 furlongs – post time of 5:10 CT.

The male sprinters get their turn. There should be enough front speed to set up the race’s senior member, RIVER BEAR. Winner of a $50K stakes three back on the Turfway polytrack, he didn’t embarrass himself at all two back at Oaklawn and came off a freshening last out to win an upper echelon AOC earlier this month over the local dirt. Second in all three state-bred stakes in this division last year. BOWMAN’S SECRET closed to grab third money last fall in the Lightning Jet at 15-1 odds.  He spent the rest of the Hawthorne winter meet and this spring meet proving that outing was not a fluke, as he’s been first or second every time since while working his way, rung by rung, through the allowance conditions. Emigh/Dorris jockey/trainer team has gotten together three times, all on this horse, with two wins and a second.  Leading Hawthorne Trainer Roger Brueggeman starts three in here; we’ll take the one with the meet’s leading rider, Cisco Torres. That would be CATFEINATED, who won a first-level allowance last time out and has a thirteen starts with ten money finishes on the Stickney dirt. Shows steady speed figures, ascending Beyer figures since emerging from a fall vacation. Should get a good stalking trip.

#3 RIVER BEAR (9/2)

#5 BOWMAN’S SECRET (5/1)

#8 CATFEINATED (4/1)

Longshot: Trainer C. Janks had the 15-1 up setter of last year’s Lightning Jet with FOUR LEFT FEET. I’ll take his stable mate this time, #2 BIG REWARD (12/1). Second off the layoff and all his best races have been here at Hawthorne sprinting. The 1:12 3/5 work last out could win an allowance race, and he shifts back to an inside post after getting wide trip last out on Illinois Derby Day.

Race 9 – Milwaukee Avenue Handicap – 1 1/16 miles – post time of 5:40 CT.

Our final stakes honors an Illinois-bred who was the runner-up in the 1977 Hawthorne Gold Cup and an earner of nearly $375K over five seasons.

The toughest race was saved for last. Going two turns on Hawthorne dirt with pace to chase is the ideal circumstance for TABLE GAMES. He got it last time when he was up for sale for $35,000 and he gets it again today. Winner of the Edgar Futurity in 2010, 2011 was mostly a lost year for him as he spent spinning his wheels on Arlington grass. TABLE GAMES got a jolt last time when switching to new rider Tim Thornton, who takes a return call. COLOR ME BLUE won a listed stakes three starts ago at Oaklawn, then spent the rest of the meet chasing Alternation, who rattled off wins in the Essex, G3 Razorback, and G2 Oaklawn Handicap. There’s no Alternation in his field, but he’s marooned out at post eleven. When he was in outermost post seven last October in the Buck’s Boy (the fall version of this division’s state-bred stakes), he was wide on the turn and it may have been his undoing.  Logical and usable candidate, leaning against based on post positions. Another horse you could have had for $35,000 last time was P D Q KIDDO. He had only one start last year going ten furlongs across town at Arlington. Strong work recorded on April 20th and he’s been more of a dirt horse throughout his career.

#2 TABLE GAMES (5/1)

#11 COLOR ME BLUE (4/1)

#6 P D Q KIDDO (8/1)

Longshot: Rarely do you get Chris Block at 10-1 in Illinois, but you might get it here. #8 KNIGHT AFTER NIGHT (10/1) cruised to a 5 ¾ length victory in a state-bred N2X allowance in March, beating a few fellow entrants and closing off a square pace. Stablemate HOPE FOR TODAY should provide the front speed, and if stablemate TABLE GAMES has a brain fart, this one could he rallying late.

Good luck to all.

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