STICKNEY/CICERO -- On a mild and breezy evening on West 35th, the Grade Two, $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup was contested at a mile and a quarter on fast dirt. With a field of eleven in the gate, it was the largest field in five years to contest the race, the only graded stakes and only open stakes of the Hawthorne fall meet.
At the break, double graded stakes winner and wagering favorite CARY STREET was held in his ear by an assistant starter, needed an equipment change, and reared at the start. It all amounted to a compromising break for the horse. His bad break and a surface playing kindly to speed throughout the afternoon at Hawthorne was a double whammy.
When the field of eleven passed under the wire for the first time in the Gold Cup, RED RIFLE had taken the lead and would be kept on the front end. Florent Geroux, who was aboard RED RIFLE, had been told by trainer Todd Pletcher "to break on top." RED RIFLE got that solid break, with HATTAASH and EVER RIDER in close attendance, the first quarter in a solid :23.89. RED RIFLE stayed on the lead, joined by ABRAHAM in a stalking position, with the half timed in :48.62. RED RIFLE widened his lead on the second turn, still in control with positions relatively unchanged on the backside. When the field turned for home off three-quarters in 1:12.81, RED RIFLE was still in control over ABRAHAM and EVER RIDER. RED RIFLE had opened up a three length lead turning for home, after a mile in 1:37.87, with the closers belatedly starting to chip into the margin. MISTER MARTI GRAS, making his fourth consecutive appearance in the Gold Cup, was closing on the outside.
At the finish, it was RED RIFLE in control for most of the way in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, stopping the clock for ten furlongs in a solid 2:03.24 and giving Todd Pletcher another training victory in the Gold Cup to go with his win with Fairbanks in 2008. Florent Geroux was the winning pilot of the four-year-old colt by Giant's Causeway out of the Gulch mare May Night. Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC were the winning owners. He was sent off at 6-1 odds and returned $14.80 to win. RED RIFLE was victorious by 2 1/4 lengths over MISTER MARTI GRAS. CALL ME GEORGE stayed on gamely for third, a head behind the top two. New-York bred EFFINEX, who was live on the tote in the early wagering, checked in fourth a length behind CALL ME GEORGE. 3-1 favorite CARY STREET reported home eighth.
Adele Bellinger, assistant trainer to Todd Pletcher, was "absolutely thrilled" to win the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup and was informed by Pletcher "to break sharp, to let him run. The horse ran an awesome race."
Winning rider Florent Geroux was told as well by Pletcher to "break on top. At the top of the lane he really kicked home." He additionally remarked that "I never rode him before. I saw a lot of those races. He's been running in a lot of those mile and a half races. I knew he was a nice horse."
Geroux further remarked about his rise from near anonymity on the Chicago circuit to piloting graded winners like RED RIFLE and Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Work All Week, "It's funny because three years ago Todd called to ride in the Illinois Derby. I wasn't known then like I'm known now."
Tim Thornton rode second-place MISTER MARTI GRAS, and noted that the pace was working against his horse. "He tried," Thornton stated. "At the three-eighths pole, I knew I had a ton of horse...They didn't seem to have [RED RIFLE] under pressure early on. He got a breather turning for home. I wasn't able to run him down."
The $2 5-10 exacta of RED RIFLE and MISTER MARTI GRAS returned $98.00. The twenty-cent 3-10-8 trifecta of RED RIFLE, MISTER MARTI GRAS, and CALL ME GEORGE yielded $130.26. Twenty-cent 3-10-8-6 superfectas with EFFINEX in the fourth position returned $808.58.
All photos courtesy Four Footed Fotos.
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