Surprise! The Pat Whitworth wasn't the end of the stakes season at Hawthorne, after all!
Though the two-turn Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity did not fill up and was not run, Illinois-registered two-year-olds are getting another chance to race in stakes company. Hawthorne added a $50,000 sprint stakes, opened to Illinois-registered two-year-olds of any sex, going six and a half furlongs on the main track. It attracted a field of six: three maiden special weight winners, one experienced maiden, and a pair of first-time starters.
Like the Futurity, this race is named in honour of former Illinois governor Jim Edgar, who led the state's executive branch from 1991 until 1999. He owned 2005 Governor's Lady Handicap winner Fighting Fever, and many of the Chicago horses in recent years with "Fever" or "Wager" in their names trace back to Edgar.
Saturday, December 21: Hawthorne Race Course
Race 3: Jim Edgar Illinois Juvenile Stakes, Illinois-registered two-year-olds, six and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:55pm
In this field of six, the morning line favorite and the one to beat is MIND YOUR OWN BIZ. Hawthorne was abuzz leading into his debut in an Illinois-bred maiden special weight on November 22....and he was bet down to even money, and in true Rivelli fashion led at every call, but he had to work for it. The one who kept him honest that day -- RIP IT RYAN, who showed serious second-start progression at 43/1 -- returns to face him again. MIND YOUR OWN BIZ stands to be the pacesetter again, and will likely be fast enough to clear the field, get to the inside, and dare RIP IT RYAN and the rest to catch him. He steps up an extra half-furlong in trip, which is a question, but one he could answer positively: he is likely fitter for having that debut underneath him, and even though his close relative Pablo Del Monte has done most of his work at five and five and a half furlongs, he won going six and a half furlongs at age two, and is Grade 1-placed at a mile and an eighth at age three.
However, RIP IT RYAN was gaining. The extra half-furlong should suit him well; his dam was versatile enough to win at distances ranging from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth, and sire Arcade was a winner at six and a half furlongs and stakes-placed at seven. If anyone is going to be able to reel in MIND YOUR OWN BIZ, RIP IT RYAN, off his last, seems the most likely candidate.
The other two maiden winners in this field are fillies.
PALAGO stalked the pace and cleared in a six-furlong maiden special weight, running on well clear of War Colors, who came back to finish third behind Cowgirl Kimmie and Summer Day in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante. It was a light-on effort, though she will have to progress significantly to challenge the others in this field who have run. And, the stretch out is a question on pedigree: her first-crop sire Palace could stretch out to seven furlongs with class, but his progeny so far have been best at six furlongs and below, and dam Causegood did her best at four and five furlongs. (Though, Causegood is half to a G3 winner going seven furlongs as a juvenile, 2015 Arlington-Washington Futurity winner Shogood.)
ELIZABETH'S GHOST, a Ghaaleb half-sister to G3-placed Goneghost, rallied from midfield to break her maiden at Hawthorne on November 16. Worth noting, ELIZABETH'S GHOST is the only one of the three winners to graduate in an open maiden special; both MIND YOUR OWN BIZ and PALAGO beat Illinois-registered company. It was a smart debut, and she may not have to go so wide in a small field, though she hopes for a fast pace in front of her.
The other two runners are first-time starters.
Rail-drawn BABA LOU goes out for connections who have already seen stakes success this meet: jockey Carlos Ulloa, trainer Fernando Bahena, and owners Bob and Lynda Esposito are the connections behind Pat Whitworth winner Cowgirl Kimmie. BABA LOU even shares a sire, Cowboy Cal, with her stablemate. Looking underneath, he is the first starter out of Baba Lucy, a hard-knocking Peace Rules mare who won over $100,000 on track the hard way: 12 wins in 44 starts over the course of four years. She won on debut -- though that debut didn't come until age five, and there is no two-year-old form in BABA LOU's close family.
A MERRY HEART is the first starter for her sire Ameriheart, a son of Lion Heart who went 3-for-19 lifetime, winning at both five and a half furlongs and a mile. Ameriheart is a half-brother to first-crop sire Bahamian Squall, a Grade 2-winning sprinter who didn't race at two, but has seven winners from twelve starters this year. He is also half to second-crop sire Apriority, a Grade 3-winning sprinter, whose two-year-olds are winning at a 10% clip. Ameriheart's half-sister Squall City won second-out at two, was a Listed winner at three, and has produced four two-year-old winners including G1-placed juvenile Big Tiz. Looking underneath, A MERRY HEART is the first starter out of the Cherokee Rap mare Reba's Set, who went 1-for-8 lifetime, winning a five-and-a-half-furlong maiden claimer on the Hawthorne dirt. The best two-year-old form in A MERRY HEART's closer family came from second dam Twin Set, who placed in four starts in Germany at age two, though she won at three and was graded stakes placed down the Santa Anita hill at four and five.
#5 MIND YOUR OWN BIZ (1/1)
#2 RIP IT RYAN (5/1)
#3 ELIZABETH'S GHOST (4/1)
Longshot: The longshot writer's recommended strategy is to try to get a look in the post parade, and if one of the longer-priced horses looks strong, collected and ready for business, to consider them in the underneath rungs. On paper #1 BABA LOU (8/1) is a bit more interesting only because her trainer Fernando Bahena is having a strong meet and has solid form with two-year-old runners, though the rail draw is a concern.
You can take "Picks & Ponderings" with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Hawthorne Race Course. And you can get "Picks and Ponderings" in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking "Create Subscription." It's a FREE service, and you'll never get any unwanted spam.