For about a decade, the Hawthorne Gold Cup occupied the first Saturday of October on the calendar and served to kick off the Hawthorne Fall meet. As a result, it doubled an intersectional Breeders' Cup prep race. This year, the Hawthorne Gold Cup moves to November and goes to an old-school position on the calendar, one that the Gold Cup held for most of the eighties and nineties.
Date placement aside, the Gold Cup retains the intersectional feel as Eastern runners like LAST GUNFIGHTER and ALPHA tangle with midwest runners like HATTAASH and MISTER MARTI GRAS. While still a Grade Two, the purse this year took a trim from last year, with $350,000 up for grabs. And the Gold Cup remains the dirt surface of Hawthorne and will be contested at the ten furlong distance.
WGN will provide live (local to Chicago) television coverage of the Hawthorne Gold Cup from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm Central Time. WGN-AM will provide radio coverage of the card's first eight races from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm Central Time. And the first thousand general admission patrons admitted to Hawthorne after 11:00 AM get a free long sleeve shirt from the race's sponsor, Xpressbet.
Hawthorne Race Course - - Race 8 - - Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap - - 1 1/4 miles on dirt - - post time 5:45 pm CT
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 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 will scratch 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. His chances improve if PRAYER FOR RELIEF, cross-entered to Friday's G1 Clark Handicap, opts for the Clark instead of the Gold Cup as the Asmussen-trained entry tends to like sitting near the leaders, inheriting, and making a move then (read: no passing!). PRAYER FOR RELIEF'S presence would decrease the chances of the McLaughlin-trained ALPHA. PRAYER FOR RELIEF, for the record, receives little endorsement from this corner, and DERBY KITTEN even less than that.
#3 LAST GUNFIGHTER (9/5)
#8 SUNS OUT GUNS OUT (8/1)
#5 ALPHA (3/1)
Longshot: In the field of nine before scratches, 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 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.
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