This Saturday's card at Hawthorne features the flagship race of the meet, the Grade 3, $150,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup. The only graded stakes of the fall, it is also the only mile and a quarter race of the year.
Picks and Ponderings will have full coverage of the Hawthorne Gold Cup, including a handicapping preview, on-site news and notes, and a recap. Our coverage of the race starts right here, with a rundown of the probable and possible entries in the race.
The following runners are probable to race in the Hawthorne Gold Cup:
- Eagle, a five-year-old intact son of Candy Ride, is trained by Neil Howard and owned by W. S. Farish. A familiar face in graded stakes company since he was two, and seven times placed in graded company, he has just one graded win so far: the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) last year at Keeneland. He also won the listed Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Grand earlier this year, over fellow Hawthorne Gold Cup nominee Fear the Cowboy. Eagle has tried a mile and a quarter once in his career; he rallied for fourth in the 2016 Suburban Handicap (G2).
- Scuba dominated the dirt marathon division in 2016 for owner DARRS, Inc. and trainer Brendan Walsh, with wins in the Greenwood Cup (G3), Temperence Hill Invitational, and Marathon Stakes (G2). The Tapit gelding's form has been spottier this year at age six, with one money finish in six starts: a second-place finish behind Hard Study in the one and three-quarters mile Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga.
- Van Damme has been to Chicago once before for trainer Robert Gorham and owner Mast Thoroughbreds. In 2015, he came to Arlington Park -- though dismissed at 46/1 in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3), he rallied to finish second behind Shogood. This year, the four-year-old Langfuhr gelding has one win in eight tries, an easy N4L allowance win going a mile on the Mountaineer main. Last out, Van Damme finished second in the restricted One Last Chance Stakes, going a mile and seventy yards on the Belterra dirt.
- Volgograd did not make his debut until September 22 of this year, but the four-year-old Curlin gelding ran true to the form of so many of his stablemates on Hugo Rodriguez's shedrow -- he won. Since then he has a pair of third-place finishes against winners, once in claiming company and once in allowance company. The allowance was his only two-turn race, a mile and seventy yards on the Hawthorne dirt; he finished a diminishing half-length behind wire-to-wire winner Stand and Cheer that day. He will have to draw on the Curlin side of his pedigree to get the mile and a quarter. His dam Magnetic Miss was an Illinois-bred multiple stakes winner -- but well befitting the fact that she was sired by Artax, she was a star sprinter.
In addition, trainer Chris Hartman has indicated to Hawthorne stakes coordinator Debby Lindsay that he will probably send one horse to the Hawthorne Gold Cup, but has not finalised who he will send. Hartman nominated three to the race. Cowboy Rhythm is currently entered in an allowance optional claiming race at Churchill on Friday, going a mile and a sixteenth on turf. However, his two career stakes tries have been on dirt, as have all three of his career victories. Futile won an open $32,000 claimer at Churchill Downs on November 9, a race from which Hartman claimed Futile from trainer Mike Maker. He tried stakes company twice earlier this year, at Tampa Bay Downs and Monmouth Park, but if he were to go in the Gold Cup it would be his first attempt at the graded level. United Stand has two wins in ten career starts, including an off-turf allowance at Churchill two starts back. Should he run in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, it would be his stakes debut.
The following are possible for the Hawthorne Gold Cup:
- Fear the Cowboy made his graded stakes debut a winning one, rolling late to score in the nine-furlong Skip Away Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park in March. Trained by Efren Loza for owners Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti, the five-year-old intact son of Cowboy Cal also won the listed West Virginia Governor's Stakes two starts back, his third victory in eight starts this year. In addition to being possible for the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Fear the Cowboy is also entered in another race this week; he is the 3/1 second favourite on the morning line for Wednesday's Swatara Stakes at Penn National.
- Infobedad started his career in Argentina and struggled in his first few American starts last year, but a 26 1/2 length victory in a $25,000 claimer at Santa Anita on New Year's Day heralded a better year for the six-year-old Dancing For Me intact. Infobedad has won twice in eight starts this year. He has proven he can handle the distance of the Hawthorne Gold Cup and beyond: his second win this year was an allowance score at Santa Anita going a mile and a quarter, and he finished second behind Destin last out in the Grade 2 Marathon Stakes going a mile and three quarters. His outing in the Marathon was his first start since being claimed for $62,500 by his current connections, trainer Neil Drysdale and owner Waldorf Racing Stables LLC. In addition to being possible for the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Infobedad is entered in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) Friday at Del Mar.
- Side Pocket, trained by Jere R. Smith, Jr. for owner Tracee Friederich, would face both a distance test and a class test in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. The five-year-old gelding by Put It Back has never raced a mile and a quarter. Side Pocket has been in good form this year, with three wins in seven starts on the year, but all three of those wins have come in starter-optional company. Still, winning the Hawthorne Gold Cup with a horse who rose from the claiming ranks may well run in the family for Side Pocket's trainer. His father, Jere R. Smith Sr., conditioned Recoup the Cash. Though Recoup the Cash broke his maiden for a tag at Keeneland and spent much of his three-year-old year in the Chicago claiming ranks, he then began to climb the class ladder. In the last start of his four-year-old year, Recoup the Cash won the Hawthorne Gold Cup. In addition to being possible for the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Side Pocket is entered for main track only in an allowance at Hawthorne on Friday.
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