Saturday's card features the final stakes race of the Hawthorne fall meet, the $50,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity. The race is the second stakes of the meet for Illinois-registered two-year-old colts and geldings. The first, named after 1982 Futurity winner Sun Power, was won by Larry Rivelli trainee Pass the Gravy. The son of Afleet Alex returns here, and eight others have entered to take him on.
The race was originally the Illinois Breeders' Futurity. Since 1999, it has taken its name from Jim Edgar, governor of Illinois from 1991-1999. In addition to being a popular lawmaker, he breeds and races horses. He has owned one Thoroughbred stakes winner: 2005 Governor's Lady Handicap winner Fighting Fever. He is still active in racing; odds are, if you see a horse in Illinois or Indiana with "Fever" or "Wager" in their name, you'll find a connection back to Edgar.
Several winners of the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity have gone on to win in graded stakes company. One became a Grade 1 winner: High Alexander (1983), who won the American Derby at Arlington the next year. Two others have won in Grade 3 company. Colorful Tour (2001) relished the dirt in Hot Springs, winning both the Essex Handicap (G3) and the Razorback Handicap (G3) at age four. Magic North (1984) triumphed a little closer to home, winning the 1986 National Jockey Club Handicap (G3) at Sportsman's Park.
Race 6: Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity, Illinois-registered two-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 3:25pm CST
This race is a puzzle, as many large-field Illinois-bred juvenile stakes tend to be: you've got maidens (and even a first-time starter in BE AN INSPIRATION), very little route experience (only SIR ANTHONY and IM THE BEST I KNOW have gone two turns, and both did so on grass), and a six-furlong prep race that was run over a muddy track. With Saturday at Hawthorne slated to be cold and dry, the utility of the Sun Power has its limits. Tossing aside questions of surface affinity, it seems the Sun Power taught us two things: PASS THE GRAVY does not need the lead, and DEMAND RANSOM does.
DEMAND RANSOM should be able to get a clean path to a forward position from the outside gate, but he'll have company. Rail-drawn RUN FOR CHARLIE will send, and IM THE BEST I KNOW does his best work from the front, as well. Watch the racetrack on Saturday; should there be the inside speed bias that sometimes arises on cold days, do not leave inside-drawn RUN FOR CHARLIE off of tickets at a price. However, should the track be playing fairly, the contested early fractions should set up for a horse who is coming from off the pace.
The two "obvious" horses, GHAALEB'S WINNER and PASS THE GRAVY, both figure in that case. They do have two-turn questions, as neither one has tried two turns, and both are out of sprint-oriented dams. GHAALEB'S WINNER gets the slight nod between the two, in that he has better proven form over dry dirt than PASS THE GRAVY does. That he showed both in his sharp maiden win at Fairmount this summer, as well as in a commanding allowance victory at Hawthorne two starts back. GHAALEB'S WINNER has also gone longer than six furlongs before; he finished third behind Barry Lee in the seven-furlong Arlington-Washington Futurity. PASS THE GRAVY, however, would be no surprise. Though he improved on the switch from a dry track to a muddy one, there is also the possibility that the improvement he showed in the Sun Power could be attributed to a change in running style, from a frontrunning style to a midpack rallying style. As the latter style should serve him well here, expect him to reprise it here.
Though both can win, neither GHAALEB'S WINNER nor PASS THE GRAVY is sufficiently compelling to take at a short price, and there is a price horse with real upside in this spot. This space will swing for the fences with MR. LUV MAKER. Though his Sun Power outing was a disappointment, he ran well in three of his four starts before that, all of which were on dry dirt. That includes a second-place finish behind GHAALEB'S WINNER in a sprint allowance back in October. MR. LUV MAKER also has the right breeding to stretch out to two turns here, as he is an Exchange Rate half to some nice route horses like Dundalk Dust and Luv Bandit. He has an advantageous running style, and he should get the distance. At the price, it's worth betting that MR. LUV MAKER will get back on track with the return to a dry track.
#4 MR. LUV MAKER (15/1)
#6 GHAALEB'S WINNER (2/1)
#2 PASS THE GRAVY (8/5)
Longshot: The longshot writer's darling in this race was already tabbed as the top selection. But, there's also good reason to look at #3 BE AN INSPIRATION (15/1). He is a wild card here, as he is a first-time starter. But, trainer Wayne Catalano excels with first-time starters. BE AN INSPIRATION has regular works stretching back to the beginning of October, and Catalano can succeed at a price when debuting a horse at a route of ground. The underside of his pedigree suggests he can get two turns; he is out of Hart, a Harlan mare who has produced three two-turn winners already. There's enough precocity in BE AN INSPIRATION's breeding, too; Horse Greeley's 12% first-timer win rate is useful enough, and Hart produced Hart of a Cowboy, a first-time out winner for Catalano.
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