Hawthorne's fifteen-day spring meet drew to a close today with three stakes races for Illinois-registered horses.
It was a red-and-green-letter day for the triumvirate of owner William Stiritz, trainer Scott Becker, and jockey Chris Emigh. The three combined for two stakes wins today: Dandy Gal in the Third Chance Handicap, and Goneghost in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap. Both stakes winners were homebreds for Stiritz, from the final crop of his longtime stallion Cherokee Rap. They all three accepted meet titles, as well. With ten wins, Stiritz claimed leading owner honours for the meet. Those same ten wins brought Scott Becker the training title. Emigh, with his pair of stakes wins on the final day of the meet, ended the spring at Hawthorne with a meet-leading fourteen victories.
In the other stakes race of the day, Illinois-bred sprinting mainstay Recount won his second consecutive running of the Robert S. Molaro Handicap.
Third Chance Handicap: DANDY GAL Digs In, Surprises Trainer
For as often as Scott Becker visits the winners' circle at Hawthorne, he didn't assume he'd be there after the Third Chance Handicap at Hawthorne today. As he reflected after the race, "I thought we could hit the board, but I don’t want to say that I thought we could win it. But, you have to put them in there to try."
Trying an ambitious spot paid off for Becker when Dandy Gal staved off foes to both her inside and her outside on the way to her first career stakes victory.
My Darling Sofia sent to the early lead, carving out an opening quarter of 22.13 and a half in 45.29. Near that half mile mark she was coming under pressure from Dandy Gal, who was advancing from her stalking spot. My Darling Sofia fought with Dandy Gal until there was about a quarter mile to go, but packed it in entering the stretch. By then, Go Lady Jay was making herself known. Sitting about two lengths off for much of the race, she slipped between the fading pacesetter and the new leader near the three sixteenths.
Though Go Lady Jay fought to improve position all the way down the stretch, Dandy Gal refused to be passed. She crossed the wire in 1:09.56 for six furlongs over fast dirt, a neck in front of Go Lady Jay. 1.3/1 favourite My Mertie, who made an outside bid on the turn but was hung wide into the lane, chased well for third, three quarters of a length out of second. It was another eight lengths back to Jolee, well off the pace for much of the race but unable to make enough of a run to get close to the top three. My Darling Sofia completed the order of finish.
Dandy Gal is a five-year-old mare by Cherokee Rap out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Dandy Yankee. The victory was her ninth in 25 career starts. It was her first win in stakes company, although she was already stakes-placed on the strength of a second-place finish in the 2016 Isaac Murphy Handicap at Arlington. The $47,700 winner's share of the purse brought Dandy Gal's career earnings to $241,096.
After the race, jockey Chris Emigh highlighted the intelligence and awareness Dandy Gal showed on the track today. "My horse was waiting on the lead a little bit. When the one on the outside came to us she took off and when the one on the inside came she took off. I did feel the pressure but my horse took off just enough when the other horses came to us. She was watching both sides, and she did just enough to keep the lead."
Dandy Gal paid $7.00 to win. The exacta with Go Lady Jay in second (4-2) returned $15.50 for each $1 on the combination. A $0.20 trifecta with My Mertie in third (4-2-5) came back with $8.78. Superfecta wagering was not taken, because the race originally drew a field of only five.
Milwaukee Avenue Handicap: GONEGHOST Speeds Away Again
A year and a half ago, you could have claimed Goneghost for $12,500 at Hawthorne, out of his second career start. Luckily for owner-breeder William Stiritz, no one dropped a slip. Goneghost has proven nearly unstoppable as he has climbed through the starter and allowance ranks, and ended last year with a pair of stakes triumphs at Hawthorne. The wagering public figured Goneghost would come strong off the bench, sending him out of the gate at 2/5 odds.
Goneghost's toughest foes were a pair of graded stakes-proven mares, both of whom were facing males for the first time in their careers. Six-year-old Prado's Sweet Ride, a grade 3 winner at age three on grass, and a stakes winner last fall in the mud at Hawthorne, would be tested on dry dirt. Babybluesbdancing, second in the Iowa Oaks (G3) last year and a three-time stakes winner against Illinois-bred fillies, would make her first start since a restricted stakes race at Delta Downs last month.
Off sharply and soon to the lead, Goneghost led through fractions of 23.89 for the quarter and 47.63 for the half. He led comfortably as Prado's Sweet Ride stalked outside, and Babybluesbdancing and Runningfromthefeds tracked in range behind them, with Little Ike settled at the rear. Into the lane, Prado's Sweet Ride would not relent in her chase. Yet, under a drive in the lane, Goneghost had more to give. He inched even farther clear, crossing the wire in 1:41.67 for a mile and a sixteenth over fast dirt. Prado's Sweet Ride followed two and a quarter lengths behind. Another five and a half lengths back came Babybluesbdancing, who outfinished Runningfromthefeds. Little Ike completed the order of finish. Colour Guard was a trainer's scratch.
Goneghost is a five-year-old Illinois-bred gray or roan gelding by Cherokee Rap out of the Silver Ghost mare Ghost White. A ten-time winner in just thirteen career starts, his victory in the Milwaukee Avenue is Goneghost's third career stakes win. The $47,805 winner's share of the purse brought Goneghost's career earnings to $283,415.
The victory in the Molaro is Goneghost's third win in a row, all in stakes company. Last fall, he won both the two-turn Buck's Boy Handicap as well as the one-turn Lighting Jet Handicap, both on the dirt against fellow Illinois-bred horses. Though Goneghost had not raced since winning the Lightning Jet five months ago, trainer Scott Becker deliberately chose to return him in the two-turn Milwaukee Avenue. "We had always planned to train up to this race," Becker stated. "He’s easy to get ready and he’s been ready for several weeks. We had a choice of distances but we had always planned to go two turns. I think he’s better going two turns. He has good natural speed and he can get the distance."
Goneghost returned $2.80 to win. The exacta over Prado's Sweet Ride (4-6) paid $3.40 for each $1 on the combination. A $0.20 trifecta with Babybluesbdancing in third (4-6-5) paid $1.40. The superfecta with Runningfromthefeds fourth (4-6-5-3) came back with $2.32 for each $0.20 base bet.
Robert S. Molaro Handicap: RECOUNT Repeats
Even though Recount had not seen the winners' circle since his victory in the Molaro on April 22 of last year, he had held his own in classy company at Oaklawn through the winter, including a third-place finish behind Wilbo in the listed King Cotton stakes in February. To the tune of 1/9 post time odds, the public figured he would return to his winning ways when he returned against horses bred in Illinois -- particularly given his natural early speed, and given that the field of the Molaro had scratched down to three.
Cashel Rock, coming off a victory in an open $40,000 claiming race at Keeneland earlier this month, did his best to make a race of it. He sent to the front early, vying with Recount on the front end through splits of 22.32 for the opening quarter and 45.07 for the half, as President Elect trailed behind them. At the three sixteenths, jockey Alex Canchari shook the reins on recount. Mitchell Murrill put Cashel Rock under a drive, asking for his best. He tried gamely, but Recount was too good. He edged clear, ridden out in hand, to finish the six furlongs in 1:09.75 -- a length better than Cashel Rock. President Elect crossed the wire five lengths farther back. Briar's Gold and Richie the Bull were trainer's scratches; D'Rapper was a veterinarian's scratch.
Recount is a six-year-old gelded bay son of Limehouse out of the Bold Badgett mare Lucky in Love. Bred by Barney and Anne Gallagher, and foaled in Illinois, he was purchased for $40,000 by James DiVito as agent out of the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale in 2013. DiVito has trained Recount for owner Doubledown Stables, Inc., of Richard Templer. The victory was Recount's twelfth in 34 lifetime starts, and his ninth in stakes company. The $32,340 winner's share of the purse brought Recount's career earnings to $623,461.
Recount paid $2.20 to win, and the exacta over Cashel Rock (5-2) returned $1.20 for each $1 wager. Place, show, exacta, and superfecta wagering were cancelled.
All pictures courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.
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