Buck's Boy Handicap Preview

The only Illinois-bred to ever win a Breeders' Cup race was Buck's Boy, and he's the namesake of the feature race at Hawthorne for the first Saturday of November; the same day as Breeders' Cup.  It functions also as the last grass stakes of the season at Hawthorne Race Course.

Buck's Boy also won the 1998 Older Male Turf Eclipse Award that season along with the G1 Turf Classic Invitational (now the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational) at Belmont.  He closed out his career at seven with a win in the G2 Pan American at Gulfstream.  On the local scene, he won the 1997 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Buck's Boy winning the 1998 Breeders' Cup Turf. Video courtesy Youtube.

Before proceeding to the picks, we remind our "Picks and Ponderings" readers to look at the calendar. Forecasting the weather is a challenge in November, and handicapping horse races gets no easier. With fickle conditions, races can get rained off the grass (or snowed off) at a moment's notice.

As such, selections and analysis are "turf only". Now that the disclaimer is through, let's look at this race.

Hawthorne Race Course - - Race 7 - - Buck's Boy Handicap - - 1 1/16 miles on  turf  dirt - - post time 5:37 pm CT

Three-and-up Illinois-breds will see the starter for a purse of a hundred thousand.  The 1-2 in the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap three weeks ago, THE PIZZA MAN and TAZZ, return.  And this race could play out as a carbon copy, with TAZZ on the lead and the PIZZA MAN trying to run him down.  Here, there's no MR. VEGAS to scratch out, so TAZZ goes on the lead and will set slow fractions.  THE PIZZA MAN, shrewdly under Cisco Torres last time, shadowed and didn't let TAZZ get a free pass on the front end.

This time around, TAZZ is obviously the front end speed of the speed, but he's not the most reliable of Illinois-breds; as it's easy to question his ability to put together back-to-back efforts.  THE PIZZA MAN will likely be close up, ready to make a run on the leaders and close in the stretch.  And as he's the defending champion, that makes him a multiple stakes winner over the Hawthorne grass.  Nice to see a realistic morning line quote this time on our pick.  COALPORT comes in off a fifth in the Shadwell Turf Mile that was neither on turf nor at a mile.  It was rained off the grass, switched to 1 1/16 miles, and saw Silver Max go all the way on the engine and hold off the incumbent Horse of the Year.  COALPORT beat THE PIZZA MAN earlier in the year at Arlington in the Black Tie Affair, the summer counterpart of this race.  Two back he won a minor stakes at Kentucky Downs at a mile.  The aforementioned TAZZ will likely get on the front end.  Perhaps with a rider switch on THE PIZZA MAN, TAZZ will get a more clear run.  But as mentioned before, you have to wonder if he can pair up quality starts.  The Homeister/Janks team got second in last week's grass stakes and have been a solid team all meet (20% wins, 60% top three).


#10 THE PIZZA MAN (2/1)

#5 COALPORT (7/2)

#6 TAZZ (6/1)

Longshot:  #7 ICE CLIMBER (15/1) could have been yours last time for $35,000, and three starts ago was claimed by Larry Rivelli for forty grand.  Although he's been at this level a while, this year he faced quality types like Code of Conduct and TAZZ.  Last year he cashed a check in this event behind THE PIZZA MAN.  And last time he won over the Hawthorne turf course.  Rivelli has also been doing well at the meet with six wins in twenty one starts at the Hawthorne meet, as well as hitting the board at a white-hot two-out-of-three rate.

Update, Friday November 1.  Disregard the struck out text above.  Due to steady/heavy rain earlier in the week, the entire card was taken off the turf on Friday.  Therefore, "Picks and Ponderings" will now look at the race, carded for dirt.  Morning lines are not given since they were composed for grass.

It will be tricky to know what the composition of the field is before scratches, but both DAD ARE WE HERE and LUV BANDIT rise to the top in the race with its new off-turf configuration.  Edge to DAD ARE WE HERE who fired well off a layoff in the Hawthorne Spring meet, tangling with LUV BANDIT and quality synthetic horse FRANCOIS earlier in the year, then was done in by a yucky break in the Milwaukee Avenue, a state-bred stakes at today's conditions--1 1/16 miles on dirt.  Ocampo climbs aboard and good work pattern.  LUV BANDIT won a $50K state-bred stakes downstate at Fairmount two back coming from off the pace. He'll need some pace targets, which may not materialize. Still, he was a toss-out on turf for solid dirt form.  Now that we're on the dirt, this race makes better sense.  Shipped to West Virginia and ran a nice race with respect to a figure last out.  COALPORT may scratch out due to the surface switch, but he was second in the Milwaukee Avenue earlier in the year on the Hawthorne dirt (splitting LUV BANDIT and DAD ARE WE HERE).  Even though it's not on turf, he's dropping in class after facing some turf tigers like Silver Max and Rahystrada.  Perhaps an Illinois-bred stakes is his level, even if not on what appears to he his best surface.

Dirt Selections:




Dirt Longshot: Hard to know who stays around, but #9 LASSELL will be getting weight, getting Tim Thornton aboard (unless the jockeys play musical chairs), and getting back to a Hawthorne dirt where he has a win and four money finishes in six tries.  The fact he hasn't won since last year's Sun Power, fifty-one weeks ago, should at least ensure a modicum of price in a potentially scratch-decimated field.


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