STICKNEY/CICERO-- The opening weekend of Hawthorne's Fall meet featured three stakes, with two turf stakes featuring logical winners surrounding a longshot in the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup. Here's a recap of all three stakes.
Indian Maid Stakes: ROMACACA Dominates
In the $100,000 Indian Maid Stakes, eight turf females saw the starter. Morning line favorite ROMACACA was the odds-on choice in the field, and she lived up to the billing, winnning the stakes by 1 3/4 lengths. Francisco Torres, scoring his third on the day, was aboard.
Torres commented post-race that "there wasn't much other pace in the race so we thought we would able to dictate [the pace]."
And that's what happened. Breaking from the rail, ROMACACA spurted out to a lead going into the first turn, and she turned in a solid wire-to-wire effort. The lead was between one and three lengths throughout the race, and was 1 3/4 at the end. Splits were :24.86, :49.78, and 1:14.23. Only JULIE'S LOVE and closing KEPI mounted any sort of real challenge to the favorite. JULIE'S LOVE was second all the way around and second under wire, and KEPI closed from fifth to be third.
ROMACACA much the best in the Indian Maid.
ROMACACA, a six-year old daughter of Running Stag, stopped the clock in 1:43.62 for the mile and a sixteenth on firm turf. The 3-5 favorite paid $3.20 to win. Cisco Torres rode for trainer Danny Miller.
Post-race, trainer Danny Miller mentioned that "she's just a professional" and "it's always fun to win this mare." Plans were undecided for the next start, though she will be placed in the Fasig-Tipton Mixed Sale next month.
The $2 1-5 exacta of ROMACACA and JULIE'S LOVE yielded $12.40 to lucky backers. The 50 cent 1-5-7 trifecta of ROMACACA, JULIE'S LOVE, and KEPI returned ten dollars. Dime 1-5-7-8 superfectas with AFFAIR DABBLER in the fourth position returned $7.31.
Hawthorne Gold Cup: POOL PLAY shocks
The feature of the day, the Grade Two $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup, was a dramatic race before the day even started. NATES MINESHAFT scratched before the first race on the day, and ALTERNATION became the odds on favorite. He appeared the only speed on paper, the class of the field, and it appeared that he would take the field on a merry chase.
What happened was the exact opposite. The longest shot in the field was 20-1 ELDAAFER, and he finished third, behind the second longest choice, 16-1 POOL PLAY.
The scratch of NATES MINESHAFT on the lead among the six going for Gold Cup Glory. ELDAAFER, however, did not let ALTERNATION loose on the lead, and the two dueled through opening fractions of :24.68 and :49.40. After 3/4 mile in 1:13.97, ALTERNATION continued to lead. The pressure finally got to ALTERNATION after a mile (clocked in 1:40.23), and ALTERNATION ran out of gas. On came the closers. POOL PLAY came five wide on the far outside and came from last to earn his second win on dirt, with both victories in graded stakes. CEASE cashed a check in his second straight Gold Cup, finishing second. ELDAAFER survived the pace battles to hang on for third ahead of local MISTER MARDI GRAS. 4-5 favorite ALTERNATION was last.
POOL PLAY (right, yellow saddle cloth) upsetting the Hawthorne Gold Cup.
POOL PLAY, a seven-year-old Ontario-bred by Silver Deputy went off at 16-1 odds and paid $34 to win as the second longest shot on the toteboard. Miguel Mena was aboard for trainer Mark Casse. Final time was 2:06.36 on a fast track that was producing slow clock times all afternoon.
Casse's assistant, Randi Melton, said post-race that "the long stretch played into our favor" and credited Casse with "being very strong with with regards to pointint out races."
When asked about future races, Melton said "you aim for it but we don't know. [But] he's such a big, long striding horse."
Winning rider Miguel Mena, in a post-race interview, "had confidence in him because I knew he could handle the dirt. He loved the long stretch here. He got a good trip even though the pace was slow. When we got to the 3/8 pole, I was pretty excited."
With ALTERNATION off the board, slight bridge-jumping occurred as the show payoffs were equal to or slightly above the place payoffs for the top two finishers.
The $2 4-5 exacta of POOL PLAY and CEASE yielded $127.60. The fifty-cent 4-5-2 trifecta of POOL PLAY, CEASE, and ELDAAFER paid $219.60. Dime superfectas with MISTER MARDI GRAS in the fourth position netted backers $152.95.
Robert F. Carey Memorial: SUNTRACER Shines
Another turf race in Chicago. Another chance for Block-heads to cheer.
Closing from last and getting up in the last strides was Illinois-bred and defending Sophomore champion SUNTRACER, the 2-1 favorite.
After an even break, RATATAT got the early lead and set a swift early pace of :22.88, :46.93, and 1:11.36 for the early fractions, with CHEROKEE LORD in close attendance and the two trading positions down the backstretch. Stalker TAZZ grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch. The closers came from near, with NIKKI'S SANDCASTLE, and from far with SUNTRACER. Both came from far back, and it was SUNTRACER getting up by a neck over NIKKI'S SANDCASTLE. TAZZ was third, a half a length behind.
SUNTRACER (red saddlecloth) with a last-to-first winning effort.
An Illinois-bred four-year-old by Kitten's Joy, SUNTRACER stopped the clock in 1:48.75 for a mile and an eighth on firm turf. He paid $6.20 to win as the 2-1 favorite. Eddie Perez rode the winner for trainer Chris Block.
Perez after the race lauded that "he's a game horse and he seemed to know where the finish line was. I got him into a good position, where I knew we could make a good run at the leaders."
Trainer Chris Block said post race that "he ran like I hope he would, He got a pace today which is unusual for him. I thought that it would set up nice for him."
Block indicated he'll point the homebred for the G3 River City during Churchill Downs's Fall meet and point him towards winter races at Gulfstream. He also indicated that G3 Pucker Up winner Leading Astray would likely be pointed for the G3 Valley View against her age group instead of the G1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup.
The $2 1-5 exacta of SUNTRACER and NIKKI'S SANDCASTLE paid $24.40. The fifty cent 1-5-3 trifecta of SUNTRACER, NIKKI'S SANDCASTLE, and TAZZ returned $22.35. Dime 1-5-3-4 superfectas with HOTEP in the fourth position rewarded backers with $14.02.
All Photos courtesy Four Footed Fotos. Special thanks to Hawthorne Asst. GM Jim Miller for considerations.