For the first time since 2014, Hawthorne will host the Showtime Deb Stakes: a six-furlong sprint for Illinois-registered juvenile fillies.
The race fills an important gap in the Illinois-bred stakes program, one that has existed since the Showtime Deb and the Sun Power (its colts' and geldings' complement, which will be revived next week) dropped off the stakes' schedule: without them, there was no sprint stakes race for Illinois-bred two-year-olds. For Illinois-bred juveniles who are bred to do their best at one turn, or who still need to develop before showing their best at two, this gives them an opportunity to show their best against the best of their class.
Even for fillies who have already shown two-turn prowess and may truly be pointing to next month's Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, the earlier sprint stakes allows them a sprint prep over the surface, against a similar quality of horses who they'll face next month, instead of having to enter the horse in a prep allowance to which other top Illinois-bred freshmen may not be pointing. In short, everyone wins with the return of the Showtime Deb and the Sun Power.
Though, Illinois conceived and foaled fillies win just a bit more than the their counterparts who were only foaled here. The base purse is $75,000, available to all entrants -- but there is an extra $25,000 in the mix, shares of which are available to any runner both Illinois conceived and foaled who finishes in the top five. In the field of ten, four of the runners were sired right here in the state and are eligible for this extra money: ROMANTIC ATTACK (by Forest Attack), ISABELLACANNETELLA (by Ghaaleb), ROYAL'S POSITION (by Well Positioned), and TUMULTUOUS GAL (by West Ranger).
Saturday's feature takes its name from 1988 Illinois-bred Horse of the Year Showtime Deb. Fittingly for the namesake of a juvenile stakes race, the daughter of Hatchet Man won that honour on the strength of a two-year-old season during which she fired off four stakes wins in a row: the Marica Stakes, Windy City Stakes, and Durazna Stakes at Hawthorne, and then the Illinois Breeders' Debutante at Fairmount Park. In both the Marica and the Durazna, Showtime Deb conquered open company; her other two stakes victories that year came against Illinois-breds.
One of the winners of the Showtime Deb Stakes currently has an Illinois-bred stakes race named after her. 2010 winner Third Chance won ten of nineteen career starts, including five stakes races, and the spring sprint stakes for Illinois-bred fillies and mares bears her name. Another has made a strong impact in the breeding shed. 2004 Showtime Deb Stakes winner Bluesbdancing produced the dominant Illinois-bred filly of this year's three-year-old crop, three-time stakes winner Babybluesbdancing.
Updated Friday, November 10 to reflect a further $25,000 added to the purse of the race, as of an announcement Thursday evening. The original purse was $75,000 ($50,000 for Illinois foaled, with an extra $25,000 for Illinois conceived and foaled horses.)
Saturday, November 11 - Hawthorne Race Course
Race 7: Showtime Deb Stakes, Illinois-registered two-year-old fillies, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:58pm CST
One big question hangs over this year's running of the Showtime Deb Stakes: who will Larry Rivelli scratch? He has two horses in here, RICHIESLILWILDCAT and JEAN ELIZABETH, who both do their best work on the front end. In four starts RICHIESLILWILDCAT has already shown she does her best work unchallenged on the lead; in two starts JEAN ELIZABETH has never been tested. Between the two, it seems a bit more likely that RICHIESLILWILDCAT will stay in, since she beat open company at Churchill last out and lures rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. back to town to ride. That said, if she scratches and JEAN ELIZABETH goes instead? She is fast enough to become the threat to wire, and she already has a win over the course in which she outgunned ISABELLACANETELLA early and drew clear of her late.
Whether a Rivelli scratches or both stay in, STROLLIN THE BAYOU should be the value of the race, and has a solid win chance. She comes off a convincing maiden victory across town, a race in which she stalked off some honest early fractions and then kicked well clear late. She should be fast enough early to keep the pace in her sights, and she keeps jockey Edgar Perez from that maiden score. Perez has been strong this Hawthorne meet, and trainer Chris Block has been an absolute win machine. The one lingering question about STROLLIN THE BAYOU is the surface, as all three of her starts have come over the Arlington polytrack. But, her dam is a proven producer of dirt winners, making the surface change worth a shot.
Trainer Scott Becker has a pair in here, ISABELLACANNETELLA and ROYAL'S POSITION. ISABELLACANNETELLA would be no surprise to see in the gimmicks, as she chased JEAN ELIZABETH around well enough last out, but it is hard to see her take the step forward she needs to win outright. Though ROYAL'S POSITION makes her first start against winners here, she has so far shown a better ability to stalk the pace and pass horses than her stablemate has. She also has a win over this course, a daylight score in state-bred maiden special weight company going six furlongs at Hawthorne. ROYAL'S POSITION does need to take a step forward to win this outright, but not an astronomical one, and trainer Scott Becker's 24% strike rate with last-out maiden winners is another positive.
#5 STROLLIN THE BAYOU (6/1)
#7 RICHIESLILWILDCAT (2/1)
#4 ROYAL'S POSITION (8/1)
Longshot: #1 ROMANTIC ATTACK (30/1) comes off a sixth-place finish in the Arlington-Washington Lassie. She was running on well enough late to make her sharp maiden win two back not look a fluke, and she should appreciate the class drop from open fillies down to state-breds. ROMANTIC ATTACK is hoping for a target to run at -- it would be best for her if both Rivelli entries stay in, or barring that, if someone else makes them go too fast. (ISABELLACANNETELLA? STROLLIN THE BAYOU?) But if either of those things happens, ROMANTIC ATTACK's strong late pace makes her a threat. She tries dirt for the first time here, but has a right to handle it: all four other winners from her dam have racked up win pictures on dirt, with two doing so at sprint distances. As ROMANTIC ATTACK has already answered the sprint question in the affirmative, that's enough to give her a shot on dirt as one of the longest shots in the field.
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