The showcase race of the Hawthorne Fall Meet is the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup, with a pot of $350,000. "Picks and Ponderings" will be on-site at Hawthorne Race Course.
In addition to the TV/radio coverage and promotions, there will be a qualifying tournament held on site at Hawthorne for the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), with the finals to be held after the new year in Las Vegas. Additional details on the contest can be found here.
With all those events, "Picks and Ponderings" has you covered with the below-full card selections for Hawthorne Gold Cup Day. Selections are made for a fast track. (All material is jointly submitted for Danonymous Racing.)
Race 1- - $10K Illinois-bred N2L Claimer - - Six Furlongs on Dirt - - post time 2:10 pm CT
We start with older females in this never-won-two claimer. Last time in an Illinois-bred maiden claimer, PURRDENO shook clear and dictated the terms going six and a half furlongs. From the gate, I think she's quicker and it's possible he can shake clear in this spot. She's also on the move up the class ladder in this spot, and perhaps the light bulb flicked on last time. The race appears to be a two-speed number but she looks the quicker of the two out of the box. Using this fresh face in an attempt to beat LYDIA'S ANGEL, who is 1-for-21 coming in to this race. (Everyone is 1-for-something, obviously.) LYDIA'S ANGEL has little front speed, but she'll get a set up if the two speeds hook up. Does have six money finishes in those 21 starts, five of them on the Hawthorne dirt. Another new face in a group of habitual horses is CARTIAC ARREST. On paper she's a double drop, but nearly everyone in this field that raced for $10,000 last time did it in open company. It makes the "double" part of the double drop questionable, but you can't deny she's going turf to dirt for a trainer who's quietly having a solid Hawthorne meet. Graduated two starts back.
#2 PURRDENO (15/1)
#3 LYDIA'S ANGEL (2/1)
#5 CARTIAC ARREST (5/2)
Longshot: As mentioned above, on paper this is a two-speed number, with the two speeds being our top choice PURRDENO and #1 AEROPAGUS (12/1). Should PURRDENO scratch, this horse becomes a must use. In any case, this one has found new life with high figures on the Hawthorne dirt with a win and a second in three tries on the local strip after floundering in basement maiden claimers across town at Arlington. Gets a rider switch to Marlon St. Julien, who's been a nice addition to the colony after riding all summer one state to the East.
Race 2 - - Maiden Special Weight - - Six Furlongs on Dirt - - post time 2:39 pm CT
An open juvenile maiden special weight starts the early pick four. Tricky race, and I settled on second time starter ONTHEEDGEOFGLORY. He shifts outside to inside and chased three wide in the first start. Trainer has two wins and four money finishes in eight starts at the meet and hits about one out of six with two year olds. Perhaps second start sees some progression, and helped perhaps by the outside-to-inside shift. Emmanuel Esquivel, who won the jockey title at Arlington while an apprentice (and still is an apprentice) and then took off to become a top-ten rider at Aqueduct, comes back to Hawthorne (for Hattaash in the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup later on in the card). For the same trainer, he climbs aboard C. Winebaugh's KID PARADISE. Think a rider switch to Esquivel on an off-the-pace type will give this one a check. Trainer is twelve of fifteen in the money this meet. First time starter BATTERED may be bred maternally for grass, but the top side is somewhat win-early. Hawthorne's long stretch should give BATTERED a chance here, and the dam, per Brisnet stats, has sent out two winners from four foals.
#3 ONTHEEDGEOFGLORY (5/2)
#7 KID PARADISE (6/1)
#1 BATTERED (5/1)
Longshot: Two first time starters in the field, the other gets the plug here. #2 WILD MONGOLIAN (8/1) is another Mongolian-named runner from owners Mongolian Stable and trainer Enebish Ganbat. You may remember these people from stakes placed three-year-old Mongolian Saturday. Trainer Ganbat is one for nine at the Hawthorne meet, one for nine this year with first-time starters. The pedigree on this is as good for frosh wins as the other first time starter, and the low sample size should keep this one floating around 10/1.
Race 3 - - N1X/$75K Allowance Optional Claiming - - Six Furlongs on Dirt - - post time 3:08 pm CT
Another short field, this time of frosh fillies, where it's possible a front speed will clear and dictate all the terms. One of the best gate riders around the Arlington/Hawthorne circuit is E. T. Baird, which makes RICHIES SWEETHEART speed of the speed. She nearly pulled the gate-to-wire job last out in the Showtime Deb against state-breds, hooking up with a solid stakes winner that had been aiming for the Delta Princess. Drops back to a more realistic level and won two back at Keeneland, exiting a sneaky-good Arlington-Washington Lassie. The inside was the place to be in sprints on Showtime Deb Day, and LOOK WHO'S HERE was marooned in post twelve out by Midway Airport. Give her a pass for being wide last out and instead circle back to her effort two back behind stakes-placed Maria Maria (who goes on Saturday at Gulfstream in a frosh filly grass stakes). Like all other fillies in the field but TAMAZULA, she's in for the claiming tag and the effort two back was at today's class level. The aforementioned TAMAZULA was a buzz horse before the Arlington-Washington Lassie but turned in a decent fourth after being cantankerous in the paddock. After that fourth, she tried a G3 in Canada but likely found a mountain too high. Back in with locals and in allowance conditions, goes first time dirt in this spot.
#6 RICHIES SWEETHEART (2/1)
#2 LOOK WHO'S HERE (12/1)
#1 TAMAZULA (8/5)
Longshot: Not sure 20/1 holds on the morning line, but let's hope it does with the top two morning line choices dropping from stakes company. #3 AVI'SBLAZINVICTORY (20/1) isn't dropping from stakes as she graduated last time out by six. Making her live is that she's a dead closer - - the lone closer - - in a field of mostly sprinters and pressers. A Tim Thornton and Clay Brinson jockey-trainer production, the former a top rider at the meet and the latter a trainer hitting at better than 25% wins.
Race 4 - - $5000 "B" Claimer - -5 Furlongs on Dirt - - post time 3:38 pm CT
MONGOL MAX is a snug conditions fit in this race for three-and-up five grand conditioned claiming types, having two wins on the year but one before April 30, as one of the race's conditions specify not having won twice since April 30th. Both wins were in Hawthorne sprints, the April win at today's distance. He's four-for-for in the money over the local strip and the potent Torres/Brueggemann jockey/trainer team are behind this one that also drops in class from $7,500 "B" claimers. EPIC PHELPS drops for the first time into conditioned claimers in this spot. Another conditions fit with two April wins at Fairmount yet nothing in the win column since May, as he's been stuck at the two-other-than Fairmount allowance level. Yet, he was nosed out a win two back in open $5000 claimers here at Hawthorne earlier in the meet, then was bumped up a notch to the eight grand gang. Perhaps the conditioned claimer is his level, and nothing wrong with Tim Thornton aboard. It's late November at Hawthorne, and that means the cold weather carousel may be spinning. When it gets cold (below thirty degrees for an extended time period), the track can tighten up and play to inside positions and speed horses. Along with that potential possibility, is that low level claimers can sometimes do big things on easy leads. Presenting NO BULL JESS, who wired the field two back going six and a half panels at Hawthorne in today's condition. Shortening up to five won't be an issue; look to his Fairmount races earlier in the year at five and a half. Even though he only won two back, that's his only win on the year. Worth a look as speed of the speed, and especially if there's a deep freeze and/or speed favoring Stickney/Cicero dirt.
#9 MONGOL MAX (3/1)
#8 EPIC PHELPS (9/2)
#3 NO BULL JESS (4/1)
Longshot: It's true that Fairmount Park downstate is a cut below Hawthorne, but sometimes there are nuggets that make the trip north to Hawthorne after their meet wraps in September. One of them could be #1 SEYRULE (20/1), who turns back to five panels after a slew of two-turn route races. Shortening up to five furlongs might work to jump-start this stuck-in-neutral type, and so might a change of scenery. I'll put my trust in a trainer that's three-for-seventeen on the year, but with all three wins in claiming races.
Race 5 - - $20K N2L Claimer - - Six Furlongs on Dirt - - post time 4:08 pm CT
Another spin on the never-won-two claiming wheel. The early Pick Five closes out here and most tickets will likely single FROSTBITE FALLS. Try as I might, I can't oppose. The three-year-old drops from open allowance company to this spot, and hasn't ever been offered this cheaply. Two back was in for $25,000 and was third. The rub on FROSTBITE FALLS is that he's likely turned into one-way speed despite winning off the pace at first asking across town on the polytrack. Maybe switching to the seven-pound apprentice will do the trick. SACRED RANGE isn't a good win candidate (then again, are any of these?) but has been nibbling and collecting checks and doing enough to think that one of these days he'll break through. He has the gate speed of a broken CTA bus (read: none) but he's been earning a consistent figure. This appears, on paper, to be a weaker race than average (hence the low quote on the favorite) and maybe he found a bunch he can beat. CHEROBEN gets the rail draw and drops from state-bred one-other-than allowances to claimers. Shortens up to six panels, and this runner graduated going six and half across town at Arlington. Ten Hawthorne starts and five money finishes. Maybe the rail draw helps, and one to upgrade should the cold weather carousel of front speed and inside draws starts to spin.
#6 FROSTBITE FALLS (7/5)
#4 SACRED RANGE (12/1)
#1 CHEROBEN (9/2)
Longshot: Another that is dropping is #3 MEDALQUEST (20/1) . True, he did win his maiden going two turns in a super-slow time. But he's been put into beaten and open claimers facing multiple winners and horses way out of his league. Like the favorite, has never been this far down the ladder. Three back was in for twenty-five grand and in the same zip code as the favorite.
Race 6 - - $7500 Starter Allowance - - 1 1/16 miles on Dirt - - post time 4:38 pm CT
A starter allowance for those that have started for $7500 claimers or less since 2012 starts the late pick four. Let's look to DANI NIKKI to make it three in a row at Hawthorne, as she won two back in a state-bred first level allowance and last time at today's conditions. Keeps Rafael Hernandez aboard and has shown she can inherit off backpedaling types, as she did two back. The St. Julien/Lindsay team that have connected twice in the past two weeks get together on LITTLE FRANCES. Not sure what Thornton did two back putting this one off the pace, and think a more forward ride from Marlon St. Julien can help this one along. Came into good form this past summer at Arlington winning a $16,000 "B" claimer. Drops from the state-bred allowances to the starter allowances. SILVER CRUSH won a $10,000 "B" claimer last time out and moves up to these starter types. This one would benefit if the two on-paper speeds of DANI NIKKI and LITTLE FRANCES duel each other to submission. Five money finishes in fourteen lifetime Hawthorne tries and Heidi Rose gets a return engagement.
#5 DANI NIKKI (5/2)
#1 LITTLE FRANCES (5/1)
#3 SILVER CRUSH (6/1)
Longshot: #4 AFLEET ABACO (6/1) closed from the taco stand to beat straight eight-grand claimers last time and steps up to starters in this spot. Trainer Mike Campbell has caught on fire in November, with three wins and a third in the second half of the month. Thornton was aboard the last victory, and she's another that would benefit if the pace upfront gets hot. Since the Arlington-to-Hawthorne switch this one has gotten in good form.
Race 7 - - Illinois-bred N1X Allowance - - Six Furlongs on Dirt - - post time 5:08 pm CT
GAMBLIN JACK goes route-to-sprint in this first-level state-bred allowance. I like the fact he's won against winners, doing so three back in a $12,500 "B" claimer going six and a half. He's a three year old, so he shrewdly took advantage of the race conditions (three year olds of any win number can run in "B" claimers at both Arlington and Hawthorne) and stuck around other "B" claimers, being second last time for twenty grand. Three wins over the local oval. GITA'S MAHAL won a state-bred never won two dime claimer eight days ago and comes right back in the first-level allowance off the claim. Trainer De la cerda is having a quietly good meet; he won about one of every six across town at Arlington and is hitting similarly at Hawthorne. Puts the seven pound apprentice on, and might get clear as speed, though PALE HOSE could be sent and make this one work hard every step of the way. Ocampo climbs aboard PALE HOSE, who two back won a $25,000 never won two claimer and nearly wired a high level "B" claimer on the grass. His only try on the dirt was two back in the never won two. The rub on him is that he's one way speed, and Ocampo isn't a good pop-and-go rider. Perhaps the fact he's more known for patient rides will work well with GITA's MAHAL also likely to show speed.
#9 GAMBLIN JACK (6/1)
#5 GITA'S MAHAL (5/1)
#2 PALE HOSE (4/1)
Longshot: Illinois-bred first-level allowances are sometimes excellent fodder bombs that blow up toteboards. #1 TOWN STAR (12/1) might be exactly that. After two poly races last year, he went into hibernation this year and emerged earlier in the Hawthorne fall meet, graduating with a stalk-and-pounce trip. Here, he'll go second off the layoff and makes a lateral rider switch to Thornton. He's one of two trained by Chris Block in the field, but has the second-call rider as first call rider Eddie Perez rides homebred THE GREEN COUGAR. Higher odds of the uncoupled pair and going second off the shelf are the main plus points here.
Race 8 - - Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap - - 1 1/4 miles on dirt - - post time 5:45 pm CT
Originally published Tuesday November 26 for ChicagoNow but revised to reflect the scratch of PRAYER FOR RELIEF, who goes in the Clark Handicap on Friday at Churchill.
The history-filled G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup for older handicap runners. I'm not thrilled with the 9/5 morning line quote on LAST GUNFIGHTER in this spot. I'm not thrilled because I like the thrice-G3 winner who closed well last out to be fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic against Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge, the latter who goes in the Clark on Black Friday. I'm not thrilled because he'll get a pace setup and a good inside post, and he did win the Pimlico Special in the spring at nine and a half furlongs. And I'm willing to toss the Jockey Club Gold Cup where the rail was golden that day and he was three wide. I like him, but not thrilled at the low price. Still, better a short price than a long walk home. SUNS OUT GUNS OUT since a summer-time freshening has turned into a decent long-winded horse, with a fourth in the G3 Greenwood Cup at a mile and a half and a fourth in the G2 Breeders' Cup Marathon at a mile and three-quarters. He'll be cutting back to ten furlongs here, and it's worth noting he did win on a distance turn back before (though it was to a mile and beating twice-other-thans at Parx). Getting Cisco Torres to ride is a plus, and the connections scratched from the $150K Swatara Stakes at Penn National to make the trip to 35th and Laramie. Perhaps the speed of the race comes from ALPHA, the field's only G1 winner. Two back he won the G1 Woodward, but he did it bottoming out the field on a quirky off-track. Saratoga has always been the place where he's done his best form. Sadly, this isn't Saratoga. But he could get loose on the lead here, and he did win the G1 Travers (though a dead-heat victory) at the ten furlong distance a year ago. DERBY KITTEN receives little endorsement from this corner.
#3 LAST GUNFIGHTER (9/5)
#8 SUNS OUT GUNS OUT (8/1)
#5 ALPHA (3/1)
Longshot: In the field of eight (note that PRAYER FOR RELIEF will defect and go in the Clark Handicap on Black Friday), the home team is represented by MISTER MARTI GRAS, HATTASH, FORDUBAI and STREET SPICE in this Grade Two. #9 STREET SPICE (20/1) has two advantages that other members of the home team don't have. He's by a solid mile-and-a-quarter winning sire, and he'll be getting weight as a three-year-old taking on elders. STREET SPICE beat elders last time out in a second-level allowance at Hawthorne, but did so rallying wide on a day when the track played to inside speed. In fact, it was reminiscent of his maiden graduation at two where he went up the rail on a day where the rail was the worst place to be. He didn't disgrace himself with a fifth in this year's Illinois Derby, and he's got three wins and a second in six starts over the local oval. Alex Canchari, a top-five rider on the local circuit, takes the return call after the win last out. Scratched out of a Wednesday allowance for this spot.
Race 9 - - $5K N3L Claimer - - 6 1/2 Furlongs on Dirt - - post time 6:13 pm CT
There's always a bottom level five grand conditioned claimer somewhere on a Hawthorne card, and in this program it's the never-won-three flavor. Even though LAST GUN IN TEXAS is two-for-fourteen, both of his wins have come this meet at Hawthorne in bottom level conditions. Three back he won for eight grand against maidens, last time out won at today's distance in the never-won-two basement level. He may have found in his place among the lower-level claiming gang, but his Hawthorne record of seven starts, two wins, five money finishes show that he likes the local oval. There should be enough speed to give him a shot and trainer DiVito is ten-for-thirty in the win column for the meet. New faces and new things are easy things to like in this group. After all, who wants to be a perpetual five thousand conditioned claimer? Presenting from the "doing something new" column is MUAZZAZ, who adds blinkers. This one also plummets from beaten dime claimers down to today's nickel price. The best races for this one came at seven and eight panels across town at Arlington, perhaps five and a half furlongs was too short last time and two back at six and a half faced a better starter allowance/claiming type out of his league. DOUBLE SILVER lost on the line last time at today's condition and today's distance on a muddy West 35th strip. Trainer Patti Miller, taking over for her late husband, is one-out-of-three hitting the board at this meet. Think moving from inside to outside will help this runner, and will go third off a slight freshening.
#3 LAST GUN IN TEXAS (7/2)
#9 MUAZZAZ (12/1)
#11 DOUBLE SILVER (3/1)
Longshot: Let's see if Esquivel can get some flight money back to New York in the last race with #6 THE DUCK OF REED (10/1), who has been facing Indiana-breds in state-bred allowances this summer. Being competitive in those is fine as it makes him okay for this group, but the odds should hold as this one got steadied then smoked in the $7500 N3L condition at Churchill last out. A double drop, both in price and in circuit, is in play here, as well as betting off what appears to be a disposable non-effort last time.
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