Hawthorne's Saturday opener is a maiden special weight for two-year-old fillies bred in Illinois, going five and a half furlongs on the dirt. The track was good on Friday, by my eyes closer to the muddy side of good than the fast side, and will likely have even more water in it if the rain predicted for overnight and into Saturday bears out.
There are a few same-trainer entries, uncoupled as usual for this circuit. Wolfnsheepclothing and Aviyah both come out for trainer Larry Rivelli, who won with his only starter on Hawthorne's opening day (Darlin Rosie). Pasture Ornament and Kate's Cat both hail from the Dennis Hughes barn. W W Put and Take and Ghaaleb's Sicilian, as you may guess from both their names1, are William Stiritz homebreds trained by Scott Becker.
It is always a good thing to watch the behaviour of horses before their races, especially inexperienced juveniles. That advice rings especially strongly with Kate's Cat. She got loose when she was supposed to debut on August 17 and had to be scratched, and was still rather keyed up before her actual first race on September 6.
- WAY TO SUCCESS (5/1) - This filly is by Successful Appeal, a strong first-timer sire (16%) and an even stronger mud stud (19%). His two-year-old strike rate has been solid, with 167 of 347 of his lifetime two-year-old starters winners, and his 6.02 furlong average winning distance for two-year-olds suggests they can sprint. Way to Success's female family has been a versatile set. Dam Pathway (Stroll) has one other foal to race: Petal Path (Flower Alley) is only 1-for-25 lifetime, but has been able to run into the money going short or long, on dirt or on synthetic. Pathway herself graduated at one turn on dirt before winning at longer distances on dirt, turf, and synthetic, including an allowance win over good dirt at Hawthorne.. The other foals out of Margie's Connection (Just a Cat) have varied in specialty: sprint or route, turf, dirt, or all-weather. For good measure, Pathway's half-sister Beeway (Champali) broke her maiden in an easy romp on the slop. Though another half-sister Goldway (Champali) was typically a turf router she finished second in a sloppy edition of the Indian Maid Handicap at Hawthorne.
- PASTURE ORNAMENT (12/1) - Her pedigree was discussed in detail before her August 17 debut. Her pair of races at Arlington have shown little. Generally speaking, both sides of her family suggest upside on dirt. Sire Country Be Gold's progeny have won at a useful 15% clip in the mud, and dam Stardust Raj (Brave 'n Away) has a romp in the Hawthorne mud to her credit.
- WOLFNSHEEPCLOTHING (7/2) - This filly is by City Wolf, now a California stallion, who is a Giant's Causeway half to Ghostzapper and City Zip. City Wolf was himself best on the polytrack at Woodbine. His two winners so far have prevailed sprinting on fast dirt, although have taken many starts to get off the mark. If his half-brothers at stud are any indication, mud is less of a concern than lack of experience for City Wolf offspring. Ghostzapper babies win at 20% on off tracks, and City Zip babies win at 19% on off tracks. Wolfnsheepsclothing is the first starter out of dam Kisses for Jeanne (Bring the Heat). She never won, but did place in both her starts at age two. Kisses for Jeanne is a full sister to a mare named One Hot Wish, who did win on debut at two. One Hot Wish went on to produce Pablo Del Monte (by Giant's Causeway, so closely related to Wolfnsheepclothing) and Gorgeous George (Iqbaal), both ace polytrack sprinters who can move their form to dirt as well.
- AVIYAH (3/1) - She is by Shackleford, whose progeny win at a solid 16% rate in the mud. His two-year-old average winning distance is 5.94 furlongs, a positive for this horse going short, and 43 of his 117 two-year-olds (37% of juvenile starters) have won so far. Though dam Ravin's Rich Girl (Corinthian) did her best work over a mile on the grass, the record of her only other foal to race is a positive. Raisedonrocknroll (Old Fashioned) graduated at two (albeit in his fifth career start) sprinting six furlongs over slop at Hawthorne. Other than Ravin's Rich Girl, second dam Betz Brush (Broad Brush) produced two other winners among four others to start, both of whom are winners on dirt, and one of whom (For All Who Dream, by Eltish) was a debut two-year-old winner and a juvenile stakes winner sprinting on dirt.
- W W PUT AND TAKE (5/1) - This debutante is by Ghaaleb: a 44% first-time starter winner. Though the sample size is small -- Ghaaleb is a second-crop Illinois sire -- that's still a strong point in a Ghaaleb first-timer's favour. The 29% win rate also stands a positive given the weather. Ghaaleb babies have preferred sprint distances as much as his 5.7 furlong average winning distance would suggest. Looking underneath, it's all dirt sprint. Dam Put and Take (Put It Back) graduated third-time out at two sprinting on the Arlington poly, but did the rest of her best work sprinting on dirt, including a 4 3/4-length romp over a sloppy track in a handicap at Fairmount. She has one winner of two horses to start; the winner, Put Position (Well Positioned), gained her diploma sprinting on dirt. Put and Take's half-siblings also tended to do their best sprinting on dirt.
- KATE'S CAT (8/1) - Her pedigree was discussed in detail before her scheduled race on August 17. Sire Guest Star did his best work on turf, though Guest Star's dam Starrer was a multiple G1 winner on dirt, including a Grade 1 win over dirt rated good. Kate's Cat's dam Catherine Eugenia, who would be no surprise to see in a race at Hawthorne this fall, has flashes of polytrack form but has done her best work on the dirt. All of Catherine Eugenia's wins have come over a fast surface, and only once has she hit the board over an off track.
- RARE ACTION ATTACK (15/1) - This filly's sire, Forest Attack, has a useful enough 13% win rate on wet tracks; Forest Attack was responsible for two of the eight winners on Friday's card. The only other foal out of dam Action Attack (Action This Day) is a full sibling named Action Attack, an eleven-start maiden who has hit the board twice sprinting on fast dirt. Dam Rare Action (Action This Day) was an honest sort, winning six times and hitting the board another 30 in her 59-race career, but did her best work sprinting over fast dirt. Second dam Rare Touch (Rare Performer) never raced, but she is a half to 2000 Carter (G1) winner Brutally Frank (Groovy), who won his Grade 1 over a fast track but won the Bold Ruler (G3) over dirt rated good, and also half to Touch a Ledgend (Gold Legend), a three-time dirt sprint winner on off tracks.
- GHAALEB'S SICILIAN (9/2) - This filly is by Ghaaleb, the same strong first-timer and mud sire as W W Put and Take. Dam Sicilian (Storm Boot) has only produced one starter, Sicilian's Lad (Cherokee Rap), a winner seventh-out at three sprinting on the Arlington poly. Sicilian herself won one time in nine starts, second-out at three, going a mile on the grass. Sicilian's dam Shadow Island (Officer) never raced. Sicilian is one of four starters she produced. The other three all won -- and won going short on dirt. Those winners include one, Matter of Fact (Magna Graduate), who has ten wins, including four over an off track.
Looking at the Rivelli pair, Wolfnsheepclothing has some two-year-old form underneath, but her sire suggests she may need time, and she appealed a bit more on polytrack than turf. #4 Aviyah appeals more. The private re-purchase after she was claimed away on debut, combined with the fact that this is a protected spot, bodes well. She also has solid breeding for a dirt sprint, and the fact that her dam has already produced a horse who thrived in the slop helps her case.
Both of the Scott Becker runners, Ghaaleb's Sicilian and W W Put and Take, have a right to run well. Scott Becker is strong with debut runners, winning 21% of the time. Both are by strong mud stallion and strong first-timer sire Ghaaleb. Both are probably best suited going short. And, both have some slop form under the dam's side. In the event both stay in the race, #8 Ghaaleb's Sicilian is slightly preferred. Though Scott Becker often works with both Chris Emigh and Victor Santiago, Chris Emigh more often gets the best-intentioned mounts upstate.
#1 Way to Success also has some appeal. The rail is always a tough draw for a juvenile first-time starter, and her female family doesn't scream first-out winner. But, sire Successful Appeal has a solid track record with first-timers, and both sides of her family have enough slop form to suggest she will take to the footing. It's also a positive that Pedro Cotto get off Wolfnsheepclothing to ride her.
It's hard to see #7 Rare Action Attack improving enough to win, but going first-time dirt (and, perhaps better yet, first-time slop), she may move forward enough to merit inclusion in the bottom of a trifecta or superfecta as one of the longer shots on the board.
1 For those learning the Chicago circuit, W W or Wildwood often prefaces the names of William Stiritz horses, as a reference to his farm, Wildwood Farm. At that farm stands Ghaaleb, a stallion of his, the sire of both W W Put and Take and Ghaaleb's Sicilian.
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