Kid Cruz, Midnight Hawk Eyeing Illinois Derby

STICKNEY/CICERO — Hawthorne Race Course will kick off its brief two-week stakes season on April 19 with the Grade 3, $500,000 Illinois Derby, to be run at one and one-eighth miles on the dirt at Hawthorne for strictly three-year-olds. The race was excluded two years ago from the Kentucky Derby points qualification list but now retooled into a side-door stepping stone to the G1 Preakness Stakes.  Departing used the race last year as such a stepping stone, and also affirmed his victory on 35th with wins in a pair of summertime G2 races, the West Virginia Derby and the  Super Derby.

While a full field was in the gate last year (and the year before) for the Illinois Derby, the field may not be as full for this year’s Illinois Derby according to Hawthorne Stakes Coordinator Debby Lindsay. She lists seven as most probable with five additional possibles for the race. The last horse on the list was declared most probable according to independent tweets from HRTV’s S. Hazelton and Daily Racing Form‘s J. Privman.

Those seven most probable horses are as follows, with trainer names [in brackets]:

  1. BAY OF PLENTY [K. McLaughlin], winner of a maiden special weight at Aqueduct in his last start.
  2. CLASS LEADER [N. Howard], winner of a first-level allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds in his last start.
  3. DYNAMIC IMPACT [M. Casse], winner of a maiden special weight at Oaklawn in his last start.
  4. KID CRUZ [L. Rice], winner of the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel in his last start.
  5. UNDERTAKER [John Servis], winner of a first-level allowance at Aqueduct two starts back.
  6. KING CYRUS [T. Pletcher], winner at two of a maiden special weight at Saratoga and second in the Smooth Air Stakes at Calder two starts back.
  7. MONOPOLIZE [T. Pletcher], winner at two of a maiden special weight at Aqueduct and third in the Smooth Air Stakes at Calder last out.
  8. MIDNIGHT HAWK [B. Baffert], winner of the G3 Sham stakes earlier this year and second in the G3 Sunland Derby last out. He’s part owned by Coach Quenneville  of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.

Five additional possible horses were given, the first coming from reports from M. Hersh of the Daily Racing Form, and the remaining four coming from Lindsay.

  1. TONITO M [R. Morales], winner of a G1 in Puerto Rico three starts back and winner of a G3 in Puerto Rico last out.
  2. IRISH YOU WELL [W. Catalano], a maiden that has raced four times during the winter at the Fair Grounds.
  3. EMMETT PARK [R. Pincins], winner of a first-level allowance optional claimer at Turfway two starts back and twelfth last time in the G2 Risen Star.
  4. HIGH ROLL [J. DiVito], winner of a N1X/$75,000 first-level allowance optional claimer and able to claimed out of his victory last out at Hawthorne. Should he go, he’d be the likely only local entrant.
  5. RUSSELLIN [C. Hartman], winner of a first-level allowance at Oaklawn last time out.

Two notable Illinois-breds not on this list are A STEP AHEAD and RAMBLING RICHIE, the 2-1 finishers of the Edgar Illinois Futurity.  Both were nominated to the Land of Lincoln Stakes a week later.

Embedded image permalinkIllinois Derby Day, according to Hawthorne, will also a feature a book signing (see photo at left) of Chris Kotulak’s biography of trainer Jack Van Berg, to occur from 2:00 to 4:00 pm on the first floor of the grandstand.  Kotulak and Van Berg also appeared last summer at Arlington on Million Preview Day.

While general admission is always free to Hawthorne, the first one thousand patrons who purchase a program will receive a free t-shirt complements of the track.

The Illinois Derby will be broadcast locally in the Chicago area on WGN-TV in an on-air telecast from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm set for Saturday, April 19th.  87.7 FM The Game, a new sports radio station that also can be heard through the Tune In mobile app, will provide live audio coverage as well starting at 4:00 pm. Harry Teinowitz is scheduled to host the radio coverage.

Meanwhile, another graded race on the Illinois Derby Day program is the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap.  Like the feature it will be on the dirt at nine furlongs, but restricted to older fillies and mares.  It carries a purse of $150,000.  Six horses were listed as most probable according to Lindsay with four additional possibles.

The six most probable are:

  1. DRESS THE PART [T. Proctor], winner of the Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last out.
  2. FLASHY AMERICAN [K. McPeek], winner of two listed stakes last year in the late summer and sixth in the G1 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park last out.
  3. IMPOSING GRACE [W. Catalano], winner of the G3 Arlington Matron at cross-town Arlington Park last May.
  4. SONJA’S ANGEL [P. Walder], second in an N3X/$100,000 third level allowance optional claimer (was eligible to be claimed) at Gulfstream last out.
  5. ANA LUISA [T. Pletcher], winner of two G1s in Brazil and fourth in the South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park two stats back.
  6. GAMAY NOIR [M. Wolfson], winner of the G3 Rampart Handicap at Gulfstream Park last time out.

Four additional horses are listed as possibles for the Sixty Sails, with Lindsay specifying it was likely only one, not both, of the two trained by Tom Amoss would make attempt this race:

  1. INTEREST FREE [N. Howard], winner of a second-level allowance at Fair Grounds two starts back.
  2. DISTINCTIVE REVIEW [P. Darjean], a locally based entrant that was won a second-level allowance optional claimer at Hawthorne last out.
  3. FLASHY CAMPAIGN [T. Amoss], winner two starts back of an upper crust “C” allowance at Delta Downs two starts back and third in the restricted Gold Coast Stakes at Delta Downs last out.
  4. QUIET SUCCESS [T. Amoss], winner of an upper crust “C” allowance at Delta Downs last out.

Two additional stakes for Illinois-breds will also be on the Illinois Derby Day card. Each will be run at six furlongs on the dirt for a pot of a hundred grand.

  • The Third Chance Handicap, restricted to females, could see sharp claiming/starter allowance winner C’MON FEET try her hand against the division’s familiar nominees and past stakes winners like WILD HOPE, DOLLY PEACH, and MISSJEANLOUISE.Other veterans of the state-bred female stakes sprinting set like BEEWAY and FIRE TRICKS could also be in the Third Chance gate. A full list of nominees, courtesy of the track, is here. Note that G3 Arlington Oaks winner MY OPTION and SEATTLE TRAIN are cross-nominated to the Peach of It Handicap, and MY OPTION, per Lindsay is leaning toward the two-turn Peach of It on the 26th of April.
  • WORK ALL WEEK, winner of the Hot Springs Stakes against open foes last at Oaklawn,  is a conspicuous absence from the nominees list for the Robert S. Molaro Handicap, the open complement of the Third Chance. MISH MOSH, who is slated to make his first start in the Mike Maker barn, won three straight at Arlington last summer. He is among those pointing to this spot. Multiple Illinois stakes winner RIVER BEAR, who nosed out G3 Hanshin Cup winner Hogy last out at Hawthorne is likely wheeling back. Additional nominees such as (stakes winner) FOUR LEFT FEET, STATIC KILL, and SACRED GIFT have their eyes on this race.  DOMAIN’S RAP is cross-nominated to the April 26th Milwaukee Avenue Handicap.

Photo courtesy of the author. All times in article are given in central time.

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