Though the meet at Hawthorne Race Course runs through Saturday, January 12, state law dictates that all carryover pools must pay out at the end of the calendar year. Today is Hawthorne's last race day of 2018, meaning the $52,170 carryover in the Super High Five pool has to go, no matter how many winning tickets there are.
Today's High Five race is a $6,250 maiden claimer - the lowest open maiden claiming level Hawthorne offers -- going a route on the dirt. It drew a field of eight, and as of now, there are no scratches in the race. It's worth noting that seven of the eight horses -- everyone but TAPNGO -- last raced in the Hawthorne 9th on December 15, a race at this same level and distance. For what it's worth, that race's victor held up pretty well: Hero of Fire returned on December 22 and finished third against winners.
Here's our look, horse-by-horse.
Race 8: $6,250 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt, post time 4:25pm
- TAPNGO (15/1) - TAPNGO is the only one in this field who isn't coming out of that December 15 race won by Hero of Fire. He has shown little in three starts, but there are a few suggestions he could get better. He drops to the lowest level of his career, tries fast dirt for the first time, and is coming third off the layoff. Even through the Tapizar gelding was a well-beaten eighth at Turfway last time out, that was against maiden special weight company, and his speed that day (according to both Brisnet and Equibase) was not too far off from the better races anyone else in this field has been able to muster. In a race with so little pace it's still a bit difficult to see TAPNGO getting all the way there, but Jeffrey Scott Jones hit the board in a maiden claimer with a bomber yesterday (68/1 shot Salted Revenge), and may do it again with this horse.
- SUZDAL (9/2) - This English Channel colt is the "B" entry from the Pavel Vashchenko barn. (The "A" is FERN, discussed later.) SUZDAL finished third behind Hero of Fire and FERN at this level on December 15, flying in late from the clouds. He has dropped well off the pace in all three starts so far, and though SUZDAL should be fitter second off the lay, it's still hard seeing him get all the way there. After all, there's no pace in this race except for MY PEST PAL. Pass on him up top, but use liberally underneath.
- OFF TO THE BEACH (12/1) - After a sequence of well-beaten efforts, OFF TO THE BEACH showed a bit more last time, rating a few lengths off the pace and finishing fifth beaten only three lengths. Sitting close to the pace again gives this Treasure Beach colt his best chance; though he is not likely fast enough to take it to MY PEST PAL early, jockey Constantino Roman should have no trouble getting him in a good spot. The question is whether he'll make enough of a bid; last time he had every chance, but didn't find what he needed in the lane. That's the fear again here: that OFF TO THE BEACH won't finish. He can get it easy enough to hang on for fourth or fifth, but he'll probably be outfinished even with the soft pace in front of him.
- CHEADLE (6/1) - This four-year-old gelded son of U S Ranger has the same problem that so many in this race do: he's a deep closer in a paceless affair. Perhaps CHEADLE has a bit more hope than some to sit closer to the pace, as he did finish second in a race at Arlington in July after sitting reasonably close early, though even then he waited, lost ground, then ran on best late. Still, even that suggests his better style is that deep-closing trip. It's hard to see him winning both because of the pace and because he has run fifteen times with five placings but no wins. But, the Steve Fridley trainee makes sense underneath.
- CROWN REGENT (5/1) - This Manny Perez charge is a full brother to stakes-winning sprinter Fire Tricks, but with no on-the-board finishes in nine starts, he hasn't quite shown his sister's talent. Still, he didn't run badly in that December 15 race that almost this entire field comes out of. He dropped well off the pace, made up some ground, and split the field. That was his first start in two months, suggesting he'll be fitter this time. Still, the pace might do this three-year-old Hat Trick gelding in, since his better races come from well off the pace and he'll have even less to chase. CROWN REGENT may nibble at fourth or fifth, but that's about it.
- DA GOOSE (30/1) - Has only hit the board once in twenty starts, and has been well beaten in all four starts this year, all of which came at this level. It's hard to make an argument for this Billy McEwen charge, unless you're going skinny on top and hitting the ALL button in the fifth slot.
- FERN (7/5) - On form, this Pavel Vashchenko trainee is the one to beat. The Passion for Gold colt missed by a length and a half at this level and distance on December 15, and now adds Lasix for the first time. He keeps the meet's second-leading rider Chris Emigh in the irons, another positive. The one issue for FERN is the pace, since so far he has been a closer and MY PEST PAL may get it even easier up front than he did last time out. But, since he will get a jump on all the deep closers in the field, he's the most likely to reel in MY PEST PAL. If you're going two deep in the top spot, he's the other one to use.
- MY PEST PAL (8/1) - This race lacks speed, except for MY PEST PAL. Trainer Steve Manley threw a kitchen sink's worth of changes at this Leelanau gelding for his start on December 15: first-time route, first-time blinkers, and a rider change to Victor Santiago. He responded well, setting the pace before tiring to fourth. He does have tables to turn on both FERN and SUZDAL from that start, but MY PEST PAL may be fitter second off a freshening. Even though he set the pace last time, he'll have it even easier this time, since he won't have to outjump Temple Zip like he did two weeks ago. He looks like FERN's biggest threat, and merits use on the win end.
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