Illinois Champions Day Recap

STICKNEY/CICERO -- Six different owners, six different trainers, and six different owners won the six $100,000 stakes for Illinois-breds, all on the dirt and all held on a pleasant late-April afternoon at Hawthorne Race Course.   Here's a look at each of the six stakes.

Peach of It Handicap: DIVA'S DIAMOND Dictates Terms

Same race, different year.  Tim Thornton found his way to the winner to the winners' circle in the Peach of It for older routing females, just as he did last year on defending champion SEANS SILVERDANCER.  Thornton dictated terms on DIVA'S DIAMOND for most of the 1 1/16 miles of the Peach of It, breaking on top and staying to the inside of 2-1 favorite SUMMER AGAIN.  The pair of DIVA'S DIAMOND and SUMMER AGAIN  were 1-2 around the track, carving our fractions of :23.88, :47.73, and 1:12.74.  In the lane, SUMMER AGAIN wilted but DIVA'S DIAMOND repelled the challenges of the closers to win by a neck.

DIVA'S DIAMOND gives rider T. Thornton his second straight win in the Peach of It.

DIVA'S DIAMOND, a four-year-old filly by Crafty Shaw, was the co-second choice at 2.70-1 odds.  She returned $7.40 to win and stopped the clock on in 1:45.53.

Winning trainer Carlos Silva won the race as a rider in 2006 for the same owners, Asiel stable.  Those same owners visited the winners' circle seven years later on DIVA'S DIAMOND.  Now a trainer, Silva was elated to win the Peach of It.  "My filly really dug in and came back for the win.  I really didn't want her to go the lead right away. Timmy [Thornton] gave a great ride."

Trainer Silva gave no immediate plans as to a next start for DIVA'S DIAMOND, who won by a neck over BRADEN'S DREAMS.  CHAIN OF DESTINY was third, SEANS SILVERDANCER was fourth and 2-1 favorite SUMMER AGAIN checked in seventh.

Robert S. Molaro Handicap: SIGNSEALNDELIVER posts victory

Trainer Roger Brueggemann had three starters in the Molaro Handicap, and it was 2012 Lightning Jet winner SIGNSEALNDELIVER who notched another stakes victory in his belt, winning the Molaro with a closing rally to beat stablemate B TWO SPECIAL by a half length.   Both Brueggemann horses compromised the exacta that paid $34.10 for a dollar.  In the Molaro, SHELLYS WILD went out for the lead with 7-5 favorite NAGYS PIGGY BANK close in tow, with the timer reading :22.12 for the quarter and :45.53 for the half.  Both speed horses tired in the lane, setting it up for SIGNSEALNDELIVER to close off the pace and notch another victory.  It was a half length back to stablemate B TWO SPECIAL.  STATIC KILL and SHELLYS WILD rounded out the trifecta and superfecta, respectively. Favorite NAGYS PIGGY BANK was sixth.

SIGNSEALNDELIVER (center, black cap) rallies in the Molaro.

Winning rider Florent Geroux had to survive an inquiry and an objection for extra-curricular activity in the stretch that didn't affect the final result.  Geroux remarked that SIGNSEALNDELIVER "ran a very good race. I was just off the speed horses, had a very nice ride down the inside. It was crowded around the 1/8 pole but my horse fought very hard, went through, and won it."

SIGNSEALNDELIVER, a seven-year-old by Private Terms, was the 9-2 third choice and paid $10.80 to win.  Trainer Roger Brueggemann remarked that the Molaro winner will hit the road to stay on dirt, as he cited SIGNSEALNDELIVER "don't [sic] like the poly".

Third Chance: ALGONQUIN POSSE Pounces

After longshot CAMAGAIN flashed early speed then dropped out, it left the race for older female sprinters up to 6-5 favorite MISSJEANLOUISE and 2.20-1 second choice ALGONUINPOSSE.  The 1-2 from last Fall's Powerless Handicap over the same strip took a clear lead at the half that was clocked in :46.59 following an opening quarter in :22.71.  ALGONQUIN POSSE had a two length lead at the half and never gave it up, extending it to 4 1/2 lengths at the finish over MISSJEANLOUISE.  WILD HOPE was third and FIRE TRICKS was fourth.

ALGONQUIN POSSE draws away to take the Third Chance.

Winning jockey Chris Emigh commented that "[ALGONQUIN POSSE] has been training great. We got a great break and I put her in the position I wanted. Turning for home I had a lotta lotta horse.  She finished strong.  Our plan was to get quickly and get good position."  The plan worked to the delight of winning trainer Scott Becker, who plans to aim this filly for the Isaac Murphy Handicap, the summer counterpart of this race, at cross-town Arlington Park on June 8.

ALGONQUIN POSSE, a five-year-old daughter of Posse, returned $6.40 to win and ran the six furlongs of the Third Chance in 1:10.25.

Pretty Jenny Stakes: My Option Goes Last-to-First

In the Illinois-bred stakes day universe, there's always a win by Chris Block somewhere along the way.  It came in the Pretty Jenny for three-year-old sprinting fillies with logical 9-5 favorite MY OPTION, who was trained up to the race in fine order, coming off a sizzling workout over the surface.  MY OPTION went from last to first, passing everyone from pacesetter GIRLS ROCK N RULE to stalker and eventual second place finisher BEEWAY to score by five lengths.  SCARLET POWER completed the trifecta and INGYGOKISS completed the superfecta.

MY OPTION is much the best in the Pretty Jenny.

Winning trainer Chris Block gushed about the filly that he plans to aim for the June 1 Purple Violet and July 20 Arlington Oaks in a post race interview.

"I knew she could run short since we ran her short to start her career and this is just the first building block going into the summer.  I know that she's talented enough to win short.  I'm looking forward to her future. I think she might ultimately be better on grass but she won two stakes on the dirt at Hawthorne so maybe she's best on dirt.  I think she's talented enough to handle any surface but we'll find out in the future."

-- Winning Trainer Chris Block

Eddie Perez was aboard the three-year-old filly by Belong To Me that paid $5.60 to win. Winning time for the six furlongs was 1:11.15.

Milwaukee Avenue Handicap: LUV BANDIT Makes Off With Win

Winning trainer Tom Dorris didn't make the trip out to Hawthorne for the Milwaukee Avenue for older males going two turns.  He missed out on watching LUV BANDIT score the richest stakes of his career.  But his son, Chris Dorris, was there to collect the spoils of victory.

In the 1 1/6 mile event, HOPE FOR TODAY broke on top and dictated terms in the early stages, carving out splits of :23.69, :47.30, and 1:12.04.  BIG LOOIE was in close attendance in the early stages as well.  Turning for home, LUV BANDIT was moving best and grabbed a short lead in the lane, widening it to 2 1/2 lengths.  Graded stakes veteran COALPORT was second and 4-1 second choice DAD ARE WE HERE, who was bumped at the start, was third. 8-5 favorite and defending champion P D Q Kiddo was fourth.  Geroux said after the race that P D Q KIDDO may have needed that first race off the layoff.

LUV BANDIT is victorious in the Milwaukee Avenue.

Stand-in winning trainer Chris Dorris called the stakes victory "a pleasant surprise.  I'm happy about it.  I thought that he's gotten better with each race."  Like earlier winner SIGNSEALNDELIVER, LUV BANDIT will likely hit the road for the summer due to a dislike of the Arlington Park polytrack.

LUV BANDIT, a four-year-old by Yonaguska, went the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.86.  He went off at nearly 11-1 odds and yielded $23.40 win payouts.  Noel Vigil was aboard and earned his first stakes win in Illinois.

Land of Lincoln: PURGING THE STONE shocks

Another feature of the Illinois-bred stakes day universe is the crazy longshot that comes from left field.  This year's representative was PURGING THE STONE, who won the race for three-year-old males by 2 1/4 lengths.

A contested pace developed in the six-furlong Land of Lincoln, with PRINCE WHO and Edgar Futurity winner and 4-1 second choice CHATFIELD ROAD dueling through a zippy opening quarter in :21.99 and an opening half in :46.34. Post time 5-2 favorite FAB A DASHER was in close attendance too.  When they turned for home, the early leaders dropped out.  Given that they were the post-time wagering favorites, the chance for bombs increased dramatically.

In the end, it was 43-1 PURGING THE STONE, a $5000 Keeneland sales purchase sophomore by Purge, that got to the winners' circle.   EMILE was second and FLATHEAD RIVER was third.  Early pace presence PRINCE WHO hung around for fourth.

PURGING THE STONE posts the upset in the Land of Lincoln.

PURGING THE STONE rewarded backers with $88.40 win mutuels and set the stage for large exotic payouts.  Final margin was 2 1/4 lengths and final time for the six furlongs was 1:12.10.

Winning rider Uriel Lopez said that "we came flying and got there at the end.  It worked out for me."  Winning connections told Picks and Ponderings that the June 1 Springfield Stakes going a one-turn polytrack mile at Arlington is on the radar for PURGING THE STONE.

All photos courtesy Four Footed Photos.

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