Typical past entries of "Picks and Ponderings" have focused on Saturday races at either Hawthorne Race Course or Arlington Park. For this week, we look to the Sunday card. Two dirt allowances at Hawthorne going two turns serve as the fodder.
What makes both allowances significant is the presence of three-year-olds. Both of these races could serve as local preps to the April 20 Illinois Derby. One is an obvious prep, one a subtle prep.
Hawthorne Race Course - - Race 4 - - "NC" Allowance - - 1 1/16 miles on dirt -- post time 3:10 CT
This allowance functions as the obvious prep, as it carries no winning conditions (a race other than, a race since a certain time, money won in a time window). Its only age restriction is that the runners be three-year-olds.
It appears a two horse race, written for STORMIN MONARCHO and STREET SPICE, as two other members of the field qualify for a first-level allowance (BETHANY BELLE cleared the N1X condition during the last days of Arlington).
STREET SPICE came on the radar back on Powerless Day in October with a swift rally up the rail on a day when the rail was not the place to be. Perhaps he didn't have enough in the third start when he was on the rail and checked in with a dismal finish. However, he won a second time going two turns over the Hawthorne dirt. The quarantine from last fall kept STREET SPICE north, and he's worked regularly with a bullet work last time. With a good bit of forward speed here, he should be able to get a good pressing/stalking trip. STORMIN MONARCHO beat STREET SPICE in November at Hawthorne in a first-level allowance, and tried the stakes waters last time at Turfway in the $75K Battaglia Memorial. He was fifth, beaten by horses that will be going in the G3 Spiral on Saturday. He does go second off the layoff in this contrived allowance. The issue is that perhaps STORMIN MONARCHO is better on synthetics (3 of 4 in the money, only out of money finish last out) than on the Hawthorne dirt (win and an off-the-board finish). BELLS BIG BERNIE qualifies for a first-level allowance but goes in this higher-class spot. He makes his third start of the year, so perhaps he can give a good effort. His best effort came going two turns on dry Hawthorne dirt last time, and the figure in that race was superior to anything earned before that. Lures Tim Thornton, who's among the top two riders at the current Hawthorne meet, to ride.
#1 STREET SPICE (9/5)
#4 STORMIN MONARCHO (8/5)
#3 BELLS BIG BERNIE (7/2)
Longshot: A one seed has a better chance of losing to a sixteen seed in the NCAA tournament than either STREET SPICE or STORMIN MONARCHO losing. Pass the Fritos and put a game on instead.
Hawthorne Race Course - - Race 6 - - Illinois-bred N2X Allowance - - 1 1/16 miles - - post time 4:12 pm CT
On the surface, it's a standard second-level allowance, N2X in racing parlance, with the Illinois-bred restriction. Blah de blah de blah.
But check the entries. The top Illinois Juvenile from last year (as voted on by racing media and selected by "Picks and Ponderings") goes in here, CHATFIELD ROAD. So does the horse he bested in the Edgar Futurity, LASSELL. The talent of sophomores here make this a hidden prep to the Illinois Derby. The two three year olds could step into the fray of open company with solid showings in this allowance race. And neither has much competition to beat, as this allowance is populated by horses better suited for mid-priced claimers.
LASSELL proved he might be better than those claimers when he missed by a neck last time at this condition level. He was taking on elders that day, and missed in a photo finish to Real Power, who won the 2011 Edgar Futurity. Real Power is a clunk-up closer, a "garbage collector" if you will. And as such Real Power makes his run (usually one-paced) and usually gets a slice of the pie but not the whole pie. Without him in this spot, he can take advantage of a softer state-bred N2X. He tracked off speed in both the Edgar two back as a juvenile and last out as a sophomore. The seven hole is a concern, until seeing as in post six of a six horse field last out. With ITALIAN BREEZE as pace, this gives LASSELL something to track down and move past. It also gives NO APOLOGIES something to close off of. He wasn't that far behind LASSELL last out, and he's checked in with three solid showings (win, third, fourth) since going from crosstown synthetics and grass at Arlington to Hawthorne dirt. Brought to you by the Eddie Perez/Chris Block jockey team that have recently caught fire at 35th and Laramie. CHATFIELD ROAD dictated all the terms when winning the Edgar Futurity (and champion Juvenile honors) last time. He makes his first start off the winter vacation here. He's not going to have a free lunch on the front end. A positive sign is a one mile work on March 16, indicating a desire to put some fitness in. If you think he can rate, he's worth inclusion.
#7 LASSELL (2/1)
#1 NO APOLOGIES (4/1)
#4 CHATFIELD ROAD (5/2)
Longshot: Insist on a dry track for this longshot to watch. #6 PERFECTLY AT HOME (8/1) has five starts over the Hawthorne dirt, with a win, a third, and three clunkers. But the win came over fast dirt two back when clearing the Illinois-bred N1X condition. All of the races over slop featuring middling finishes and figures. Perhaps he doesn't like to play in the rain. In the dry, he got the best figures (according to BRISnet) on a fast surface. Trainer is six of twenty-six at the Hawthorne meet.
Before these allowance races on Sunday, check out a pair of quality Illinois-breds going on Saturday. In the G3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park near Cincinnati, FEAR THE KITTEN (number 2 on the "Picks and Ponderings" Derby Dozen polls) can punch a ticket to the Kentucky Derby with a Spiral win. And in the G2 Pan American at Gulfstream, 2013 Illinois Horse of the Year IOYA BIGTIME looks for another marathon sod graded stakes. He cashed a check last time in the G2 Mac Diarmada over the same course but over 1 3/8 miles.