Typically, the late winter cards at Hawthorne usually feature cheaper horses. $5,000 claimers seem to be the order of the day, with a maiden special weight or low-level allowance peppered in.
But this Saturday, despite the calendar, features an allowance race that could double as a $50,000 unrestricted stake or a state-bred stake for three times the race's $38,000 purse. It may not have a fancy name, but we'll give it one. It's "Almost A Stakes", missing only the name of some horse or figurehead to be honored. On paper, it's an allowance race, but it's the highest level of allowance race on the grounds.
It's not a stakes, but it's darn close.
Last week featured one of these not-stakes races, for male sprinters. This weekend, we get the older male two turn types.
Hawthorne Race Course -- Race 6 -- "NC" Allowance -- 1 1/16 miles on dirt -- post time 4:40 PM CT
"Pace Makes The Race" is one of the oldest known handicapping axioms in the book. If you can predict a race's tempo, you've got an advantage on figuring out who will be around when they hit the finish line. Consider this allowance, where HOPE FOR TODAY is one half of a Chris Block-trained entry. His outside post and his running style means he'll likely be on the front end. SHADOWBDANCING will be there as well early. However, SHADOWBDANCING isn't known for passing ability or for his stretch gameness (see the Cryptoclearance in April). The two just mentioned mean that they'll (A) burn each other out and (B) set it up for someone closing from the rear.
That someone is the other half of the Block entry, MISTER MARDI GRAS. Sure, he's only one twice in the past thirteen months. But he's faced very credible G3 types all year and held his own. He closed from the parking lot last time on Sun Power day in a race of similar quality, and he can handle dirt just fine (see: his credible finish in two Gold Cups over the strip). P D Q Kiddo has eight career wins, and seven of them are over the 35th street oval. Last time out he defeated HOPE FOR TODAY and FRANCOIS (who ran last Saturday and wouldn't surprise me if he defected) in an upper crust AOC at today's distance. Back class is present as well, as he won a six-figure Illinois-bred stakes in April. PROCEED BEE has the hot riding Chris Emigh taking the call for the popular Becker/Emigh team. A low G3/listed stakes type, discard his last race going five and a half furlongs on the weeds. He's had a lot of gate trouble in recent starts, and he's kept decent company all year (Vertiformer, Papaw Bodie). Did win an off-the-turf upper crust allowance last Autumn over the local dirt.
#1A MISTER MARDI GRAS (9/5) (part of entry)
#5 P D Q KIDDO (3/1)
#6 PROCEED BEE (10/1)
Longshot: We go back to the pace axiom at the beginning. It's possible that HOPE FOR TODAY and SHADOWBDANCING get more company from one...or both...of the Tafel owned horses that represent the entry with saddlecloth two. If that happens, perhaps #4 BOWMANS CASTLE (20/1) makes one big late run from the back of the pack to get in the tickets. The price will be there, the pace may be there. There's also a rider switch as well and perhaps a new pilot will wake him up.