STICKNEY/CICERO -- Rather than the six stakes of years past, a quartet of stakes, all carrying purses of one hundred thousand dollars and restricted to Illinois-breds, were contested on the final Saturday of the Hawthorne Spring meet. On a bright but blustery late-April afternoon, the in-state breds all got a chance to shine. The biggest winners of the afternoon were jockey Rafael Hernandez, trainer Carlos Silva, and owners Asiel Stable LLC. They took two of the stakes, with Hernandez taking a third victory and creating an impromptu jockeys' race (trailing leading rider Tim Thornton by four wins) for the final day, April 27th.
Land of Lincoln Stakes: I GOT IT ALL Rallies
A common thread throughout the first three of the four stakes was a dirt track at Hawthorne that played kindly to rally-wide types. Trainer Tom Swearingen mentioned that the best place throughout the day was to be two or three paths off the rail, and early races on the card held that axiom true. The axiom was verified in the Land of Lincoln, restricted to Illinois-bred three-year-old colts and geldings.
A quick pace was anticipated in this event, but that didn't come to fruition as the fractions were more sensible in this event: :22.35 for the opening quarter and :46.57 for the opening half, the fractions made by RIVZINTHEHOUSE and RAMBLING RICHIE. I GOT IT ALL got a short lead at the half-mile call, then quickened in a sustained rally on the turn to put a 3 1/2 length lead on the rest of the field, a lead that would be pared down to 2 3/4 as he crossed under the line, stopping the clock for six furlongs on the fast dirt track in 1:11.36. EASY SOLUTION, the 4/5 favorite, was second, rating and stalking as opposed to taking the lead as he had done before. SOLAR FLAIR closed widest of all and was third, 4 1/4 lengths behind the top and 7 1/2 lengths to the better of BANGTHEDRUMSALLDAY, who rounded out the superfecta.
I GOT IT ALL did his rallying three-wide, on the part of the track that Tom Swearingen, the trainer and co-owner of the Land of Lincoln winner, said was the best part. Second off the layoff worked as he flashed back to the form that made him a runaway winner over the local dirt last fall at two. The three-year-old Illinois-bred gelding by Tiz Wonderful was the wagering public's second choice at 3.70-1, and returned $9.40 to win. Emanuel Cosme, having a solid Hawthorne Spring meet, scored the stakes victory for the aforementioned Swearingen.
After a winter-time injury of a small chip that was taken out, Swearingen brought him back earlier this month and today "knew we were the speed and could be with them [on the front]." He indicated to Picks and Ponderings that the Springfield Stakes at a one-turn polytrack mile at Arlington on May 31st, a stake restricted to three-year-olds, would be a possible next out. Swearingen also hinted at trying out his stakes-winning sophomore around two turns in the future.
The $2 4-1 exacta of I GOT IT ALL and EASY SOLUTION yielded $18.60. The fifty-cent 4-1-5 trifecta of I GOT IT ALL, EASY SOLUTION, and SOLAR FLAIR returned $10.65. Dime superfectas with BANGTHEDRUMSALLDAY in the fourth position paid $8.78.
Peach of It Handicap: DIVA'S DIAMOND Does it Again
Handicappers like to use the angle of "horse for a course", a horse whose form shimmers over a particular surface. With five wins and thirteen top-three finishes in fourteen starts over the dirt on 35th and Laramie, DIVA'S DIAMOND would certainly qualify as exhibit A. And the defending champion of this race had the same owner/trainer connections as last year, Asiel Stable LLC/Carlos Silva to campaign the five-year-old Illinois-bred mare by Crafty Shaw. Just like last year, DIVA'S DIAMOND would get the win picture and the spoils of a victory in the Peach of It Handicap.
In another example of surprising pace, it was GOLDWAY that led the half-dozen older two-turn fillies and mares in this event, with her on the lead from gate break to the three-quarters call, carving out honest clock times of :23.86 for the first quarter, :47.38 for the opening half, and 1:12.96 for the three-quarters. On the turn, GOLDWAY threw out the parachute and it allowed the closers to come rallying. Four-wide closers like SYDNEYRELLA and five wide closers like THE BEST OPTION were launching their rally. Not too far off the early pace were ALETTE and OUR DOMAIN, the latter still hanging around though the stretch.
Yet the horse closing up the rail, DIVA'S DIAMOND, moving from fifth at the opening quarter to third at the head of the lane to leading in deep stretch, would get the picture taken. Rafael Hernandez was aboard the Crafty Shaw mare that traveled a mile and a sixteenth on fast dirt in 1:45.61. It was the first of two stakes victories on the afternoon for the jockey/trainer/owner team of Rafael Hernandez, Carlos Silva, and Asiel Stable LLC. The owners are also breeders of the back-to-back stakes winner that was third choice in the wagering at 2.90-1. Final margin of victory was a length and a quarter and she returned $7.80 to win.
Winning rider Rafael Hernandez described his tour of the oval, commenting that "we break [sic] good. At the three-eighths, I was looking for a hole. I had plenty of horse."
Winning trainer Carlos Silva (a former rider on the Chicago circuit himself) instructed Hernandez to "just keep in contention" and "save some ground". He mentioned a start at cross-town Arlington International as a possibility, though informed Picks and Ponderings it wouldn't be in an allowance conditions race as she's exhausted those.
SYDNEYRELLA was second in the Peach of It, a length and a quarter behind the winner and a head to the better of OUR DOMAIN, the 9/5 favorite by only about two hundred dollars over ALETTE (who, while also sent off at 9/5, reported home sixth and last). THE BEST OPTION completed the superfecta and checked in 10 1/4 lengths behind the top three.
The $2 1-4 exacta of DIVA'S DIAMOND and SYDNEYRELLA yielded $82.40. The fifty-cent 1-4-3 trifecta of DIVA's DIAMOND, SYDNEYRELLA, and OUR DOMAIN paid $64.65. Dime superfectas with THE BEST OPTION in the fourth slot returned $56.36.
Pretty Jenny Stakes: PISTOLS DRAWN Fires Winning Shot
Before the Pretty Jenny Stakes, the fillies-only complement of the Land of Lincoln contested about an hour after the Peach of It, #7 BRAVEHEART NATIVE was a late scratch at the gate, reducing the field to an octet of fillies. Early wagering had HEIR TO GLORY a favorite, but final favortism fell to the horse breaking from the outermost post, RICHIES SWEETHEART, sent off at final odds of 9-10.
Most expected RICHIES SWEETHEART to be on the early pace, and she was. She bolted to a quick lead of two and a half lengths when hitting the quarter mile mark in :22.51 and the lead was down to a full length when she hit the half mile mark in :46.76. But though she was breaking on the outside, the anchor came out. RICHIES SWEETHEART had been collared and caught, and the backpedaling was on. It opened the door for the stalkers like GABIO and MIRACLEINOURMIDST to make an attack and get first run. It opened the door for closers like BRAYZN APPEAL, who wasn't on her best behavior behind the gate.
With the favorite losing position, that allowed PISTOLS DRAWN, fourth in the early stages and second on the turn to make a three-wide move in the Pretty Jenny Stakes. In a copy of the Land of Lincoln Stakes, it was a sustained wide rally three paths off the rail that was the winning place to be. In a copy of the Peach of It Handicap, the winning jockey/trainer/owner team was Rafael Hernandez, Carlos Silva, and Asiel Stable LLC. Once again, Asiel Stable LLC was the breeder of the stakes winner as well.
PISTOLS DRAWN, a three-year-old Illinois-bred filly by First Defence, stopped the clock for six furlongs on fast dirt in 1:11.89. She won by six and a quarter lengths, widening the margin in the stretch. Sent off as the 4.30-1 third choice in the wagering, she rewarded backers with $10.60 win mutuels.
Winning trainer Carlos Silva, back in the winners' circle again, "was confident coming in", training the filly for his primary clients. He indicated to Picks and Ponderings that the one-turn mile of the June 7 Purple Violet Stakes on Arlington International Racecourse's polytrack could be a possible next-out start.
Winning rider Rafael Hernandez was not available for comment on this race. In a prior interview, he mentioned that he would be riding in the summertime at downstate Fairmount Park, citing a desire to be near his family.
Behind PISTOLS DRAWN was BRAZYN APPEAL in second. Third, a half length behind the top two was GABIO. MIRACLEINOURMIDST reported home fourth, another length and three-quarters behind that. 9-10 favorite RICHIES SWEETHEART finished seventh among the octet that started.
The $2 8-5 exacta of PISTOLS DRAWN and BRAYZN APPEAL paid $109.80. The fifty-cent 8-5-3 trifecta of PISTOLS DRAWN, BRAYZN APPEAL, and GABIO returned $187.85. Dime superfectas with MIRACLEINOURMIDST in the fourth position paid $214.73.
Milwaukee Avenue Handicap: BIG LOOIE Dictates Terms
The Illinois-bred stakes universe in past years often saw wins by trainer Christine Janks, who is among the top ten all time in all-time victors at cross-town Arlington International. Janks got back to the winners' circle with one of her charges in the final of the four Illinois-bred stakes on llinois Champions Day at Hawthorne Race Course, the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap for older routing males and the open complement of the Peach of It Handicap.
In an earlier interview, trainer Tom Swearingen mentioned that the rail was not the place to be. Yet BIG LOOIE and FLATHEAD RIVER, from the one and two posts respectively, were projected as controlling inside speed. Yet BIG LOOIE was out on the lead, just off the rail with FLATHEAD RIVER in pursuit, the 1-2 posts going 1-2 around in a merry chase that saw clock times of :23.96 for the quarter and :47.89 for the half. FLATHEAD RIVER gave up the chase on the backstretch, and LUV BANDIT, the 19-10 favorite, picked it up. The wagering favorite moved from fifth to second, and was second as the three-quarters time of 1:12.87. LUV BANDIT would get to second and get no closer, as BIG LOOIE won the Milwaukee Avenue in wire-to-wire fashion. Deep closers DAD ARE WE HERE and NO APOLOGIZES were making rallies, but time and stretch were running low.
Final time for the mile and a sixteenth on the dirt track rated fast was 1:44.64, and the final winning margin was two and a half lengths. Rosemary Homeister, Jr. was aboard BIG LOOIE for trainer Christine Janks, and it was Homeister's second victory on the afternoon. Both of her victories occurred for female trainers (the other being Ingrid Mason).
BIG LOOIE, a seven-year-old Illinois-bred gelding by Military, was the second choice in the wagering at 4.10-1 and his backers collected $10.20 on the win end. Pam Little, assistant to trainer Christine Janks, commented post-race that "speed hasn't held up [today]; we knew he'd have to put his effort forward." She did not disclose a potential next-out start for BIG LOOIE.
19-10 favorite LUV BANDIT was second and was five and a quarter lengths to the better of DAD ARE WE HERE. NO APOLOGIZES reported home fourth, three-quarters of a length from hitting the board.
The $2 1-5 exacta of BIG LOOIE and LUV BANDIT yielded $37.60. The fifty-cent 1-5-7 trifecta of BIG LOOIE, LUV BANDIT, and DAD ARE WE HERE paid $33.45. Dime superfectas with NO APOLOGIZES in the fourth position returned $22.05.
All photos courtesy Four Footed Fotos.
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