Even though the Hawthorne Thoroughbred meet ran two weeks longer than usual, even such good things must inevitably end. Saturday, January 12 marks the final day of the fall meet. Unlike last winter there will be no harness meet through January and February; Thoroughbred horses who stay in town will still be allowed to stable and train at Hawthorne, and racing will resume March 15.
But, before racing in Chicago takes a break, Picks and Ponderings will take a full-card look at the final day of the season at 35th and Cicero.
Updated Saturday, January 12 to account for scratches.
Race 1: $6,250 maiden claiming, four-year-olds and up, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt, post time 12:55pm CST
Selections: High Hero (2), Tapngo (8), Prudent Hero (3)
HIGH HERO showed mild improvement last time out, in his first start for trainer Manny Perez. The stretch out to two turns should help, as should the switch to top rider Edgar Perez. Lightly-raced TAPNGO ran on a bit late two weeks ago in his first try at this level. He'll get more pace to chase today with Gem City Jewel likely to take it to My Pest Pal early. PRUDENT HERO ran on stoutly at this level last week. The stretch out in distance is a major question, but his form is as good as it has ever been and he will get the right pace setup.
Race 2: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, N3L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:25 CST
Selections: French Minded (1), Magic Dragon (5), Ready to Fight (7)
FRENCH MINDED will be suited by the pace set by Hammers Thirsty and Hold the Door. He dropped to this level two weeks ago and responded well to the move. MAGIC DRAGON steps up in condition and may be better just a bit longer than this, but he will be finishing well and is another one suited by the pair of speeds in the race. READY TO FIGHT moved forward on a cut back to a sprint last time, as well as the move back to a lifetime condition from a beaten one. He does need another step forward, but has shown he can win at this even shorter distance and gets a switch to rider Edgar Perez.
Race 3: Illinois-registered allowance, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once OR non-winners of a state-bred race other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, six and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:55pm CST
Selections: Danny B (6), Caleb's Heir (5), Andrew the Giant (3)
DANNY B looms the one to beat. He is the fastest horse in the field, gets the top jockey in the colony, and has the versatility to take the lead or sit off the pace. (Expect the latter, with all the speed.) Furthermore, he loves the six-and-a-half-furlong trip. Though the assignment of Chris Emigh in the saddle suggests that Braden's Position is the Becker "A", CALEB'S HEIR is preferred between the offerings from that barn. Both will be on or near the pace, assuming both remain in the race, but unlike his stablemate Caleb's Heir has won in a rate-and-rally style before. Though ANDREW THE GIANT has been going long in his last few starts, earlier starts suggest he can rate and rally at a sprint distance. Jockey Juan Molina has caught fire late this meet, and this Smoke Warning colt should at least grab a piece.
Race 4: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, five and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 2:25pm CST
Selections: Her Wild Lifestyle (1), Para Vivir (4), Seattle Train (3)
HER WILD LIFESTYLE heads out for a Fernando Bahena barn that has caught fire late in the Hawthorne met. She has tables to turn against several of these, but the cut back to five and a half furlongs should be exactly what allows her to strike back. PARA VIVIR excels at dash distances. She ran surprisingly well in the mud last time out, and should do even better with the return to a fast track. SEATTLE TRAIN makes her second start off a brief freshening. She tends to be a bridesmaid going this short, but this isn't a particularly hard field for the open claiming level and she gets top jockey Edgar Perez in the irons once again.
Race 5: $20,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 2:55pm CST
Selections: Creme de Cerise (3), Papa Luca (6), My Man Elvis (5)
There are enough lightly-raced horses in this race -- four first-time starters and three second-time starters -- that paddock and post parade impressions might end up key. (Follow us on Twitter for those.) CREME DE CERISE has a gap-free worktab and a strong win-early pedigree: sire Daaher's progeny excel when young and win 18% of the time first-out, and dam Kissesforcaroline has already produced another debut winner in Keen On Gene. Even better, that debut win came for the same barn. PAPA LUCA, another first-time starter, is half to one of the most surprising winners of the fall Hawthorne meet: Legacy Type, who wired a maiden claiming sprint on December 22 at 42/1 odds. She did so for the same connections as Papa Luca: trainer Rey Aguirre and owner Savoy Stable. Papa Luca's works aren't blazing fast leading into this race, but neither were Legacy Type's. Dam Mamma Lina likewise won at first asking on the front end. MY MAN ELVIS had to chase Patch's Lugh around last week, but if none of the first-time starters rocket out of the gate, he could get things his way on the front end. The cut back to a sprint is a question, since the pedigree suggests a route may be where he ultimately wants to go. But, dam Yeardley was a stakes-winning sprinter as a juvenile before stretching out to win longer races later.
Race 6: $12,500 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N3L, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 3:25pm CST
Selections: Ashley Elizabeth (3), Asha (4), Way Too Smarte (6)
ASHLEY ELIZABETH never takes a lot of money (she'll probably drift up from the 5/2 morning line), but most of her races this meet have been just as good as she would need in this spot. And, her tactical speed should serve her well. ASHA has proven in her last two starts that she does not need the lead, a positive with other speed in this race. This is a class rise, but with new trainer Manny Perez strong first off the claim and top rider Edgar Perez taking the call, she may nab the hat trick. WAY TOO SMARTE has hit the board in her last two, running on well late. Barring a bias, there should be enough speed to mak her a threat in the lane once again.
Race 7: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races since July 12 OR non-winners of three races in 2018-2019 OR N4L, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 3:55pm CST
Selections: Flight Mission (9), Crafty Spector (7), Cool Ambition (2)
FLIGHT MISSION has tables to turn on a few of these, but the pace should be headier than last time out and the switch back to a fast track benefits him most of all. Trainer Michael Reavis and jockey Carlos Marquez have been formidable this meet, and will be tough to beat here. CRAFTY SPECTOR just missed last time. His tactical speed should help with several in this field who like to go, and when raced at the right level he is as good over a fast track as he is over a wet one. Beaten $5K is the right level. COOL AMBITION improved last time with the stretch out and the drop to a beaten $5K level. He may be even fitter third off the lay, gets top rider Edgar Perez in the irons, and won't have to face a sneaky condition book horse like Kela Brew, who beat him last time. The only major question is short rest, as he'll be racing after just a week off.
Race 8: Allowance optional claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L OR claiming price $18,000, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 4:25pm CST
Selections: Antrim's Giant (7), Side Pocket (8), Baroque (2)
ANTRIM'S GIANT steps up from starters to straight allowance company, but class is a flexible thing at Hawthorne this time of year and this company isn't much different than what he has been facing. With an honest pace likely, he should be able to sit off the speed and take charge in the lane. SIDE POCKET is another who has the advantageous rate-and-rally style. Two turns on the Hawthorne dirt is his best game, and he is a reliable performer at this level. BAROQUE will not have it easy on the front end, with Straight Shooter on the stretch-out, but has shown some ability to contest the pace and the relatively inside draw is a positive.
Race 9: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 4:55pm CST
Selections: Frosty Friend (4), Moreta (3), Mary Jean's Wildcat (5) - underneath
FROSTY FRIEND stands out. She is still relatively lightly raced, placed in the right class, and has the tactical speed to sit off the need-to-lead types inside her. In a field with so many horses who have proven they don't like to win, she has the most upside. MORETA showed some ability at Delta last winter, then was well beaten in a one-other-than at Hawthorne in April. She has moved barns since then, and drops almost to the bottom. Forward running style and precipitous class drop are questions, but she has shown some ability to contest the pace and not completely stop, a plus for this level. MARY JEAN'S WILDCAT is fast enough to be a contender, and has the ability to rate and rally. The daugher of Wildcat Heir usually doesn't get all the way there, but should be running on well for an underneath share.
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