ChicagoNow vs Jim Miller

We’re back at Laramie and 35th for a special mid-week card and I (representing “Picks and Ponderings” on ChicagoNow) am taking on Hawthorne Race Course on-air personality and morning-line maker Jim Miller, the Jim of the “Jim Versus” competition.

Each Wednesday, Hawthorne Race Course offers the chance to be a contestant. Contestants go on the Hawthorne in-house feed and offer their 1-2-3 selections. Air time is 1:00 PM central time, fifty minutes before first post.

“Picks and Ponderings” has a cheat sheet below for the entire card.  All selections are for the Wednesday April 23 program at Hawthorne Race Course and all times given are in central time (CT).  Turf Selections are for “Turf Only”, with off-turf selections given if necessary on the Hawthorne feed during the 1PM TV appearance.

Update, April 23, to reflect the entire card going off the turf.

Race 1 – – $5,000 N2L  Claiming- – Five furlongs on dirt — post time 1:50 pm

A good amount of one-way speed is signed up for this spin on the never won two basement claiming wheel.  I’ll go with SQUALL LINE who wheels back exactly a week after the last start, going six a half in a $12,500 never won two, and does a triple drop down the ladder. Compromised by a bad break in his last two outs and with a wide trip three back in New Orleans, he was third four back to Easy Solution, a nominated possibility in Saturday’s $100K Land of Lincoln Stakes. Think the speed of the speed in this gang is TOTEE, who missed by a neck last time in the same condition as today. After the trainer change to De la cerda, he’s hit the board four times and graduated two back in a basement level maiden claimer at today’s five panel distance. Rub on him is he’s got a case of seconditis brewing: six seconds in eleven career tries.  Not a fan of horses who get dusted in never won two claimers at Fairmount trying their luck upstate in similar conditions, but DANGEROUS REWARD makes start one of the year and acquires Tim Thornton, who doubled up last Saturday in the state-bred stakes on Illinois Derby Day. He’ll be helped if all the upfront speeds all get together for a barbeque on the front end, and his only career win was at five and a half.


#5 SQUALL LINE (8/1)

#3 TOTEE (7/2)


Longshot: Taking a horse at longer odds than SQUALL LINE means taking professional never-won-two type PURPLEGREENANDGOLD, and doing that would necessitate seeking medical help. #6 NINE SIXTEEN (6/1) is another going second off the layoff, but the first try was in a slow paced never won two.  The pace should be quicker today in this event, with Uriel Lopez likely executing of “close from the bus stop” rides.

Race 2 — $5,000 “N1Y” Claiming (non winners one in six months) — 6F on dirt — post time 2:18 pm

INDIAN ARTIFACT drops from a hybrid starter/optional claimer with a $12,500 tag down to the nickel claiming level and makes a rider switch to the colony’s leader, Tim Thornton.  Second off the layoff and cashed two checks in statebred never won two allowances and was facing way better than what she sees here.  This could be a move to risk the horse and then wheel back in starter allowances in the Spring and Summer, but also a nice conditions fit having won a downstate allowance in September.  HARBORTON is best known as the horse that was the focus of a Spring meet promotion that allowed people part-ownership shares with former NHL player turned analyst Ed Olczyk.  He won on the culmination of that sweepstakes, on Illinois Derby Day last year.  And he hasn’t won since, with four starts in similar bottom level five grand claimers and two in-the-money finishes.  Maybe getting Chris Emigh back in the saddle will help as he was aboard when the horse got hot last meet.  A Midwest/Brueggemann production, with the training half of the team hitting at 27% for the meet.  Coin flip here between QUEEN OF HEAT and SHESMORETHANATIGER for the third spot.  Both are pretty snug condition fits, having won last fall and within a month of the six month window in the race’s conditions.  Both have hit the board fifty percent of the time at Hawthorne in the career, and both are dropping out of “B” claimers down to this conditioned claimer.  Edge goes to QUEEN OF HEAT who could show some upside as a four-year-old (SHESMORETHANATIGER is seven), and you can make excuses for three of her last five starts: two of them against white-hot Third Chance winner C’mon Feet and one additional one on a sloppy track that she doesn’t care for.



#3 HARBORTON (9/5)

#6 QUEEN OF HEAT (9/2)

Longshot: The other side of the coin is #7 SHESMORETHANATIGER (5/1), so take what was said above about QUEEN OF HEAT and replace it with SHESMORETHANATIGER.

Race 3  — $25K N2L Claiming – – 1 1/16 miles on dirt turf — post time 2:48 pm CT

For many, this never-won-two is likely a spread leg in the day’s pick five should it stay on grass.  I’m going to guess that post-time favorite BIG MAN IN BLACK needs one as he’s on a six-month no-turf layoff.  I’ll take a swing with 1-for-25 type HOMES THE FACT. Why?  Even though he’s got twenty-five starts (everybody is one-for-something), he has twelve money finishes.  And he’s got two recent turf starts last summer at Arlington: one where she was third and one where she jumped a stricken horse, leading to a discarded start.  Maybe the grass form isn’t so bad.  The form is further clouded by getting stuck on a day where his closing style was up against a positive rail bias two back in a state-bred a-other-than.  Third start of the year and going back in for a price tag today.  Might be rounding into a chance to escape this level, and won’t concede a fitness edge as others like BIG MAN IN BLACK might. The Emanuel Cosme/Terrel Gore that have been hitting well all meet are represented with SLAMMERBDANCING.  Took ten tries to break the maiden and did so last fall over the Hawthorne grass.  Rub on him is he likes the turf firmer – note the ninth on yielding Arlington turf – and with rain Monday along with potential overnight frost, that could soften the course.  He also is coming off a layoff since last winter, and he appeared to need a race last summer across town.  The aforementioned BIG MAN IN BLACK hasn’t been out in half a year, mostly racing on turf and synthetic since coming to Chicago.  He is dropping from the state-bred first-level allowance down in for a tag today, but trainer Kirby is only average at long layoff types (12% wins, 39% in the money), and he hasn’t the board in grass since Veterans’ Day of 2012.





Longshot: On paper, the speed of the speed appears to be #3 LOVE YOU MON (8/1). Graduated in a basement-level eight-grand claimer a few days before Christmas last year and, unlike the favorite, has raced through the winter months.  He is jumping multiple levels, from a nickel to a quarter, but is switching surfaces to the turf.  The humans involved – trainer Brian Williamson and rider Chris Emigh – have steady numbers but small totals since leaving Oaklawn.  LOVE YOU MON will be best on speed-conducive firm turf or if they go too slow on the front end and this one is allowed to steal the race wire-to-wire.

Race 4 — IL-bred $15K Maiden Claiming — Six furlongs on dirt — post time 3:18 pm CT

Hawthorne is often the playground of trainer Roger Brueggemann, currently the leading trainer on the grounds.  However, Hugh Robertson has quietly had a very nice Spring meet.  I’ll lean to his first time starter HAWK’S IMAGE, who is bred well for sprints — sired by crack sprint/miler Ready’s Image with a Breeders’ Cup Sprint winning broodmare sire.  Trainer hits at 29% wins when he debuts the maidens in claiming events as well, so all signs point to Channing Hill’s mount here in this event for the in-state folk.  VALIANT POINT makes the drop from maiden special weights to statebred maiden claiming, automatically meriting a look as a multiple-level dropper.  First start was nothing to write home about, but the drop in class and the fact this team has connected three times at the meet in six outs make this one worth a hard look.  Sometimes second time is better than the first.  There are two debut runners in the field, the aforementioned HAWK’S IMAGE and RYZEE BOY.  Trainer Domenosky is one-for-thirteen at the meet but has hit the trifecta in six other outs on West 35th.  Her charge isn’t as well bred (on paper) as the favorite, but there’s plenty of recorded workouts over the local oval (a good thing considering what this winter was like).  Domenosky is a shrewd handler of low-level stock and, in a small sample, does well with first timers up for sale.


#1 HAWK’S IMAGE (2/1)


#7 RYZEE BOY (5/1)

Longshot: Plaudits to the ChicagoNow selector for choosing a 30/1 shot in the second spot, but the presence of solid apprentice rider Heidi Rose means those odds are gonna plunge.  #9 GIVEN TO FLY (15/1) steps up from basement level $8,000 maidens to state-bred $15,000 maidens in today’s start, but cuts back from route to sprint as well and, like VALIANT POINT, goes second time out leaving room for improvement.  Fifth on debut, she was behind two runners who won in their next start.

Race 5 — Starter Allowance ($8K cap) /Optional Claiming $12,500 — Six furlongs on dirt — post time 3:18 pm

A tricky race on paper, as the contenders here are a group of horses who take turns beating on each other.  Maybe CAMAGIN first off the layoff for the Thornton/Manley team is the way to go.  Won a twice-other-than state-bred allowance three back last November and second just before Christmas at today’s hybrid condition.  We’ll give her the edge as she’s shown she can pass horses in the lane, and perhaps that start in December was on the cold-weather carousel that flatters many a speed horse. Not sure what happened to WONDER COUNTRY last time in an Illinois-bred twice other than allowance, where she reported home last of six that afternoon.  But she’s back here in the starter half of these conditions, a shrewd move considering she’s been facing the varsity of Illinois-bred types (C’Mon Feet, Fire Tricks, Julmae) and this drop down without a risk of losing her via claim may be a way to jumpstart her form.  Trainer C. Winebaugh, with a small stable, has hit the board six times in nine outs at the meet, with four wins.  She sends out ANNIE BELLUM, who projects as one of the speeds from the outside.  She won’t get a free lunch on the front end, but it’s worth noting she did won an open first-level allowance two back, and that means a starter allowance with an $8,000 cap (she’s in for that side of the condition) is well within her ability level.


#2 CAMAGIN (2/1)



Longshot: “Picks and Ponderings” is brought to you by BRISnet past performances, and they usually put plus points and minus points on the page before going into the back races.  They put a squillion plus points on #6 KEL’S DREAMER (5/1) here. She’s second off the layoff after being a runner-up in this exact same condition last out, and we can discard the stakes try three back as a bridge too far.  Hasn’t seen the winners’ circle since President Obama’s first term, however, and that should keep her odds fair.

Race 6 — Maiden Special Weight — One Mile on Turf One Mile and Seventy Yards on dirt — post time 4:18 pm

This race looks ripe for a first-time starter, as there are low figures and breeding questions abound on the runners who have seen the starter before.  Let’s try a debut runner, NO FLOWERS, a Marlon St. Julien/Christine Janks jockey/trainer production.  Team has only worked together twice during the meet, but hit the board once earlier in the meet.  By Scat Daddy (a solid distance/synthetic runner) out of a Cozzene mare, the distance and a grass race should be fine for this three-year-old filly.  Janks has two wins and three more money finishes and a really strong ROI with first timers on the green.  As a three-year-old she’ll be getting weight from the older runners in the field.  SUGAR SWEET goes dirt-to-turf and sprint-to-route for career start two.  His turf try in New Orleans was rained off in early March, and he finished fifth beaten nineteen lengths.  However, it was seven lengths from first to second and ten lengths from second to third.  Additionally, he did get bumped at the break.   Maybe a clean break and extra ground helps him, though she was dusted on debut.  There are five turf tries in state-bred maiden special events for BLUE JEAN BABY who breaks from the outside box.  All five turf tries haven’t yielded a win, but have yielded two thirds.  Going from in-state maiden special weights doesn’t make you want to put this tiny dancer on your tickets, but this looks like a weak bunch of ladies and she will be unleashing a closing run in the lane after counting the headlights on the highway.


#3 NO FLOWERS (5/1)

#4 SUGAR SWEET (4/1)

#10 BLUE JEAN BABY (7/2)

Longshot: Nice to see it’s karaoke night in this race with the Vanier home-bred.  Enough song and dance, time for a serious price.  The return of grass racing means it’s time to call on one of the circuit’s better grass trainers that doesn’t get the press of a Wayne Catalano or a Chris Block.   Our trainer in focus is Michelle Boyce, and #6 LOVELY LYREE (15/1) hails from the Boyce barn.  Boyce charges usually hit about 20% of the time, and this one acquires Emmanuel Cosme to ride, himself quietly having a strong Hawthorne meet.  Goes second time out on the stretch-out to a mile, so improvement from career start one to career start two is quite possible in this spot.

Morning lines are not given below as they were made for the grass.  With this race going off the turf, I scratch into BUBUZELA, a first time starter by Rockport Harbor with a dam line full of South American breeding.  The rail has been solid in routes through this meet so maybe apprentice S. Slinger can scrape the paint on this debut runner.  Fair task to ask this one to go to two turns at first asking, but in an off-turf race the hurdle may have been lowered.   RUBIO’S GAL goes second time around two turns in this spot.  Potent humans are involved with this one: rider R. Hernandez and trainer H. Robertson are having good meets though neither is leading the standings.  He could project the speed of the speed but he faltered last time going today’s mile and seventy distance.  He may project as the speed of the speed in a scratch-depleted field but he didn’t get the job last time and hence the reservation from this corner.  M G BABY may be jumping from maiden claimers to maiden special weights for today’s route test at Hawthorne.  However, those were Fair Grounds maiden claimers and perhaps the change in circuit from New Orleans to Stickney/Cicero makes the class leap a little less imposing.  Trainer is hitting 21% wins in maiden specials.




Longshot: #5 LA ACTIVA goes sprint to route on the stretch-out for the Rose/Darjean team that in the last five starts has hit the board, including a price earlier in the meet with Distinctive Review, a state-bred who scratched out on race day of the G3 Sixty Sails.  Can improve going second time out and first time around two turns, but this is a runner I would like for again across town on synthetic.  In today’s dirt event, she could improve from start one to start two.

Race 7 — IL-Bred Maiden Special Weight — Six furlongs on dirt — post time 4:48 pm

Maybe the toughest race of the day to handicap. I settled on SHADRACH BOND who has three career outs and two money finishes in one turn events.  Cuts back a half-furlong for a jockey/trainer team that have two win pictures in the last four tries together, with Rafael Hernandez having a solid meet of his own.  Only missed by a head in the last start in these exact same conditions, so it’s easy to conclude that sooner or later, he’ll get a group he handle and get the diploma.  I know that there are fans of TRY ARGUING HARDER watching this race fervently.  He’s one of the underneath finishers (the others including the aforementioned SHADRACH BOND and FLASHDANCE ROAD, the posts 1-2-3 corresponding to the 2-4-3 finishers, respectively) from that April 6 maiden race at six and a half.  The Gonzalez/Brueggemann team, though they don’t work often together, took the nightcap about a week and a half ago.  They’ll run the Pretty Jenny stakes in a few days at Hawthorne, and one of her offspring runs in this maiden event.  Presenting J C FIFTY, who goes first start of the year and one I’ll give a second chance to on the dirt.  The last start of the year in 2013 was on dirt for this runner, and perhaps Ocampo wasn’t aggressive enough on her.  I think the rider switch to Emigh could be helpful in this spot.




#4 J C FIFTY (5/1)

Longshot: It may be the first start of the year and second start of the career, but that means there could be upside brewing below the surface.  Second time could mean a step forward, and so could the time from ages to three.  #9 FREEDOM PEACE LOVE (30/1) got time off from two to three and comes back in this maiden event to open his three-year-old campaign.  Add in a drop in class from open maiden special weights to in-state types.  And the first start wasn’t so bad, losing to a graded winner in Spot and a next out winner in Roman Officer.

Race 8 — $5K “N1Y” Waiver  Claiming (non-winners of one in six months) — 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt — post time 5:18 pm

LORD AVIE JONES is a snug condition fit in this race, having last won at Indiana Downs six months and five days ago.  Drops slightly on the class ladder from a “B” claimer to this non-winners of in six months and goes second off the layoff for rider Emanuel Cosme, who’s been half of one of the best rider/trainer teams on the grounds this meet.  Additionally should get some pace to attack, too.  FOREST KING drops from Oaklawn low-level claimers to Hawthorne low-level claimers, doing so for the potent Hugh Robertson barn.  Hasn’t hit the board since four starts back at Oaklawn in a $7500 “B” claimer when Robertson claimed from the Midwest/Brueggemann outfit.  Worth noting the last time he did win (though nearly two years ago) was at today’s distance.  Michigan-based trainer Robert Gorham doesn’t send too many horses toward Chicago, but his infrequent shippers were worth hard looks during the last Fall meet.  KNOX MY SOX is from his shedrow and the only horse in the field using the “waiver” option.  Six wins and eleven money finishes in seventeen career tries, and while he doesn’t need the lead, he’ll be near it.  He, unlike other speeds, can rate and that can be a huge plus point in these kinds of races.



#3 FOREST KING (2/1)

#9 KNOX MY SOX (9/2)

Longshot:  Only one horse in this field, #4 CHANTILLY OUTLAW (20/1) has multiple wins over the Hawthorne dirt.  The record on him over the West 35th dirt is seven starts, two wins, and on third.  We’ll take that surface record and couple it with a trainer that is six of fifteen in the money for the meet.  Pace scenario isn’t to his favor as he appears a need the lead type, but he is dropping out of the “B” claimers to this lower-level event.

Race 9 — $8K Maiden Claiming — 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt — post time 5:48 pm

Our finale of “Jim Versus” that features Super High-Five wagering for those brave enough to try it is a spin on the basement maiden claiming wheel.  DEPUTY STERLING broke sideways on debut earlier in the month and returns at the same condition as when he debuted, an eight grand maiden claiming race.  On an honest oval last time out, rider Tim Thornton gave our choice an educational debut outing and got him to finish, passing three runners in the stretch.  A clean break makes him a player, and we get first time starter YURMANS PEARL as a bonus, for a rider having a solid meet as well.  YURMANS PEARL has slow but steady recorded training center works.  Breaks from the rail, which going today’s distance is hitting at a solid 26% wins.  Take both if you can but use either half of the entry at equal strength.  BLUE AWAY will likely take the tote action, dropping from $12,500 maidens down to the basement for a quietly hot trainer and quietly hot riding Chris Emigh.  Twelve starts and no diploma yet but has hit the board six times in the career, including four back at Oaklawn in a higher claiming price.  Second in an attempt at this level last Fall.  We haven’t seen much in the way of post twelve horses at Hawthone this Spring, so it’s a pleasant surprise to talk about one.  COTTON CANDY KID is a first time starter in this basement level race, but the dam’s two prior starters have all found their way to pictures.  The team has gotten five win pictures and three additional money finishes in thirteen outs at the Hawthorne meet.  Shows two recent, but somewhat clock-pokey works over the local oval.



#7 BLUE AWAY (7/2)


Longshot: While COTTON CANDY KID could certainly be slotted here if both halves of the entry see the starter, #2 DOCUMENT (10/1) didn’t show any kick last time in the April 2 race that is perhaps better known for DEPUTY STERLING’s bad break.  Cosme has the return call on a runner trying the low-level condition for the second time, and the presence of one-way speeds like MOP should give this maiden an adequate target.

Good luck!


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