Illinois Derby Day Preview

The most important race of the Hawthorne spring meet is upon us.  It's Illinois Derby Day, with the feature set for race eight on a ten race card. Look for live on-scene coverage on twitter throughout the day.  And if the Illinois Derby appears late on the calendar, don't be alarmed.  While the third Saturday in April has traditionally been Sixty Sails Day, it now plays second fiddle to the G3 Illinois Derby.

Both previewed races will be televised on WGN in a program from 4:30 to 5:30 pm CT.

Hawthorne Race Course -- Race 7 -- Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap -- 1 1/8 miles on dirt -- post time 4:35 pm CT

The Sixty Sails Handicap honors Sixty Sails.  From New Orleans-based ownership, she won two runnings of the Arlington Matron in 1974 and 1975.  Past winners of note include Peach of It (who has a Illinois-Bred stakes in her honor), Fleet Indian, and Life at Ten.

A field of six older females lines up in the Sixty Sails for a purse of two hundred thousand.  The two favorites, BRUSHED BY A STAR and DISPOSABLEPLEASURE, both are the only ones in the field with a win over today's nine furlong distance.  The edge goes to BRUSHED BY A STAR, even though she last won in the G2 Chilukki during Churchill's Fall meet.  However, she's hit the board in sixteen of twenty-two career starts and has cashed checks in races like the G2 Falls City (at 1 1/8 miles), the inaugural Houston Ladies Classic, and the Santa Margarita.   Reunites with Lanerie, who was aboard her last victory.

DISPOSABLEPLEASURE will break from the outermost box.  Last time in an N2X allowance at Gulfstream, she dictated the terms from gate to wire to record a 1 3/4 length victory.  Two prior efforts in the Lake Placid on grass and the Spinster on polytrack can be discarded, leaving a horse that seems to cash a fair amount of checks as a mid-pack rallier.  Pletcher has brought plenty of winners to Hawthorne in the past and he brings Castellano to 35th and Laramie.

MAUDE S is one from the home team.  Last out, you could have had her for $80,000 at Keeneland.  She's the classic "horse for course": nine local starts, seven money finishes, four wins.  She got good enough in the summer to be the runner-up in last year's G3 Chicago Handicap across town at Arlington.   Toss out the Indian Maid three back where she was beaten by Romacaca, you'll find a horse that had a nice 2012 skein and could easily return to it going second off the layoff.  Trainer James DiVito is 28% in second-off-layoff situations.




#3 MAUDE S (8/1)

Longshot: The Sixty Sails, on paper, appears to have a dearth of early pace.  Maybe Miguel Mena can get brave on the rail drawn #1 DEVIOUS INTENT (8/1).  She, like MAUDE S, goes second off the layoff.   Last time out she won a N2X AOC going a mile on a muddy sealed track.  Her best races have come when she is close to the pace or setting the pace, as in her two turn efforts as a frosh filly at Delta Downs.  She ships north from Oaklawn off that N2X, and an Oaklawn shipper captured last year's Sixty Sails.  Mena piloted Pool Play to win last year's Hawthorne Gold Cup.  The precedent is present, and what if she's left alone on the front end?

Hawthorne Race Course - - Race 8 - - G3 Illinois Derby - - 1 1/8 miles on dirt - - post  time 5:15 pm CT

See these Past Ponderings for a recent history of the Grade 3, $750,000 Illinois Derby.  A full version of this portion of the piece is available at Thorofan's "Handicapper's Corner".

DEPARTING has  Brian Hernandez, Jr. up for trainer Al Stall, Jr on the morning line favorite.  Third last time out in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds with a wide trip on both turns, he defected from the Risen Star stakes in February and instead dispatched seven other runners in a $50,000 stakes at Sam Houston in Texas.  Unlike many other runners who end up in this race as a sort of “second chance”, DEPARTING’s connections chose this race to avoid the bright lights of the Kentucky Derby trail.  Trainer Stall has brought live runners to Chicago before (Terrain and Cease, for example).  He’s the likely buzz horse off the third in New Orleans, and he was among many horses (Sunbean, for one) who had to re-rally in the stretch off the stopping front end runners.  Once clear in the Louisiana Derby he kicked clear for third only a length and change behind Revolutionary, a potential Kentucky Derby favorite.

The Javier Castellano/Todd Pletcher rider/trainer team is behind ABRAHAM. He’s made only three career starts, but quickly has become stakes placed thanks to a third last out in the G3 Sunland Derby.  The three career starts show a win, a second, and a third. In the Sunland Derby at today’s nine furlong distance, he was closest to the pace and hung on decently.  However, that was a track favoring super-fast times (:46 for the half mile, 1:09 4/5 for the 3/4 mile, 1:34 4/5 for the mile, 1:47 2/5 for the final race time).  Two back he wired a field from an advantageous inside draw at Gulfstream going nine furlongs in the slop.  While the signs point to him being a pace factor, Pletcher has shipped into Hawthorne numerous times and taken a big prize home with him.  Examples include Fairbanks to win a Hawthorne Gold Cup, Life at Ten to win a Sixty Sails, and Joe Vann to win an Illinois Derby.  Bringing Castellano along shows confidence.

GROUND TRANSPORT has Mark Guidry up for trainer Mike Stidham.  Fifth last out in the Louisiana Derby, he ran evenly according to the chart calls in that Grade 2. However, he was wide on both turns, perhaps making his fifth seem better than it appears.  Prior to that, he won a maiden special weight and passed the N1X condition in an AOC.  However, in two starts head-to-head, he was behind fellow entrant DEPARTING.  And the Fair Grounds surface was kind to locals. Still, Guidry has won many a race in Chicago before. So has Stidham, usually a 17-22% trainer across town at Arlington.  And there are upward trending speed figures.  Being by Big Brown, nine furlongs should be a cinch.  His pressing style may serve him well and he’s well worth considering.


#13 DEPARTING (7/2)

#8 ABRAHAM (8/1)



Longshot: #3 STREET SPICE (20/1) appears to be outclassed, exiting a second in a lowly $32,000 allowance last out at Hawthorne.  However, Hawthorne rarely cards upper crust allowances like the one he was in with horses like STREET SPICE in mind.  He’s familiar with the surface and gets a rider upgrade to a more aggressive Jeffrey Sanchez after a passive ride last out.  He can handle the distance based on pedigree.  He’ll get pace to attack. And he can rally in the lane if the pace gets hot--watch his maiden special weight victory where he re-rallies on the rail on a day when the rail was radioactive.

Good luck!

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