2014 Handicapping Feast: Hawthorne Gold Cup Day Full-Card Analysis

The biggest day of the Hawthorne fall meet is here: Hawthorne Gold Cup Day.  Though the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) is the centerpiece of the action, there is more going on than just that race.  There is a full card of nine races scheduled at Hawthorne.  If you like maiden races, there are a couple of those, in addition to a state-bred allowance that leads right into the featured race.  It is a full and competitive day of racing that well befits this big day.

These selections and analysis are also published at Danonymous Racing.

Race 1: $20,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, five furlongs on the dirt

Selections: Bajan Rhythm (7), Cheroben (1), Try Arguing Harder (6)

In this race, most of the field has a serious affinity for the front.  Even though Bajan Rhythm has gone forth in his last two (and, really, all four of his dirt races), his one career win was off the pace going this same distance, five furlongs.  It was on turf, probably his better surface, but it was also with rider Sheldon Russell: who has the call again today.  With all the early speed in this race, if he can sit off the pace and let the speed brigade burn each other out, he could do the job.  A close third on dirt suggests he doesn’t completely hate the surface, and the rider change could get him through.  Cheroben is the only other horse in the field who tends to come from off the pace, and drops in here from allowance company.  In fact, he has not been up for a tag since breaking his maiden.  He also has not raced a sprint distance since breaking his maiden — something he tries again today.  He can put up speeds that stack up well with the field, and should have a favourable pace scenario.  The eight and a half month lay is a question, since trainer John Haran’s record off a long lay is not great, but he can fire some decent speeds and should have the pace he needs to run well.  Finally, Try Arguing Harder drops in for a tag for the first time for trainer Roger Brueggemann.  He has been a bit over his head in the state-bred allowance ranks, but this class drop should also help him along.  Brueggemann’s 25% record with horses in for a tag for the first time bodes well.  Another thing that should help him a bit is the seven-pound weight break with bug rider Rolando Aragon, who has been much improved this meet.  He has never won at five furlongs flat, but hasn’t run badly at the distance: he has a second and two thirds in three attempts at the distance.
Race 2: $15,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, six and a half furlongs on the dirt

Selections: Getwhatupreyfor (7), Aly’s Bluffing (5), Dezip (6)

Lights On Brite is the morning line favourite, and hits the board often enough to use in intra-race exotics.  Still, he has not gotten the job done in twelve starts, and is not getting quite enough of a change here to justify thinking he will break that streak here.  Instead, let’s look to a few newer shooters.  Getwhatupreyfor is dropping to the lowest level of his career, and trying dirt for the first time.  His dam Scarlet Princess won on the dirt.  His speeds are right in line with the field, and he has put up a work since that last race about a month ago.  The trainer’s goose-egg record in eight starts on the year is hardly exciting, but with such a weak field as this, there is far more to recommend Getwhatupreyfor as a runner than anyone else in this bunch.  If you’re the type with the guts to single in a low-level maiden claimer, here’s your man.  Aly’s Bluffing comes into this race second off a long layoff.  He has treid three times before at this level, finishing second once.  However, this is his first time stretching out as far as six and a half panels, and his breeding suggests that the five and a half and six furlong races he has been in to date are too short.  This may still be short for him, but the extra distance is a step in the right direction.  Dezip stretches past six furlongs for the first half in his career, and is another whose breeding suggests this distance is better.  His last outing was his best to date, and his speed figures suggest he can improve farther yet over that last effort.
Race 3: Maiden special weight ($20,000 purse), two-year-old fillies, six furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Media Star (3), Knotty Wild Girl (4), Eco Star (6)

Media Star debuted earlier in the month for top two-year-old trainer (and, so far, top trainer at the meet, period) James DiVito, finishing second behind her stablemate Etheridge — but twelve lengths in front of third place.  That was at the same level and distance as today.  She comes in here with the gaudiest speed among anyone who has raced yet, with perennially sharp Hawthorne jockey Tim Thornton in the irons.  DiVito is 28% wish second-time starters, and 27% with maiden specials in general.  She will be chalk, but given her last race and DiVito’s strike rate with the babies, she may be worth singling and moving on.  Knotty Wild Girl is another second-time starter, moving here after a fourth-place finish in a maiden special at Churchill last month.  She rides for trainer Ingrid Mason, an 18% trainer for runners second out and a 19% maiden special barn.  She is a Wildcat Heir baby bred just right for sprints, and two runners by a different Forest Wildcat stallion (D’Wildcat) out of the same dam both won second time out.  If you’re interested in trying to beat the DiVito juggernaut, this may be your horse.  Finally, Eco Star is in with a good chance to improve off her first start.  She was third in a $30,000 maiden claimer at Churchill first out, but a few things have changed to warrant the stab at maiden special company.  She gets a move to the barn of Chris Block, who is striking at 21% this meet.  She puts on the blinkers: a 29% winning move (with positive ROI_ for Block.  Emmanuel Esquivel, the runaway top rider in the colony, has the call.  Finally, she is full to second-out winner Party in Vegas (another Block trainee), and half to third-out winner and stablemate Town Star.
Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N3L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Fast Alice (7), Stephen’s Truth (3), La Enfermera Roja (7)

In a race with a lot of early speed but no clearly controlling speed, it looks like an off-pace type is going to have the setup they need.  Presenting: Fast Alice.  She drops down to the lowest level of her career, and she has the speed to contend with this field.  The track has been much kinder to runners who are at least a few lengths from the front than to dead closers, but Fast Alice has a bit of versatility in that regard.  In her two wins, one came from the clouds…but the other, a maden win at Hawthorne last December, came with her just a few lengths off early.  She also gets a rider change back to Santo Sanjur — who rode her to a win at Arlington over the summer.  There is a lot to suggest she could wake up on the class drop.  Stephen’s Truth drops from $10,000 beaten last out, and comes in here second off the lay.  Trainer Roger Brueggeman is a machine in both of these situations: 24% 2nd off the lay, and 33% with larger class drops like this.  Her last race was a bit flat, but it was her first since July, and she has posted a sharp work since.  She also gets a rider change to Rolando Aragon.  Aragon hasn’t ridden much for Brueggemann, but has racked up two wins and two further money finishes in their five starts over the last two months.  She also adds blinkers for the first time — possibly treacherous given the amount of early speed in this race, but also a 31% winning move for her trainer.  La Enfermera Roja steps up here after clearing N2L in $5,000 company last out.  She runs a midpack style, and should stay out of any fights up front.  Her rail draw should also allow her to save some ground.  She gets rider Carlos Montalvo back, who rode her to that last-out win in his first try on her.  She is also trained by Percy Scherbenske, who is hitting at 25% this meet.  She also has shown serious affinity for the Hawthorne dirt: though she has just two wins in 23 career starts, both of them have come in just six attempts over the Hawthorne main.
Race 5: $12,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt

Selections:  Road Trippn (7), Costilla Range (2), Tactics Best (3)
Road Trippn returns to open $12,500 company for the third straight race.  Two back he won going a mile and 70 yards, and last out he was a clear second at this distance.  He returns here second off the claim by Michael Reavis, a trainer who is a respectable 17% in that situation.  Emmanuel Esquivel, the leading jockey in the colony, returns to the irons.  He can put up the speed he needs, and pacewise, he is versatile: he can run a good race from the front end, from just off, or from a closing place.  Look for him to be on or near the front end here, especially since the only other real speed here is Achaemenes, who has a tendency to run fast early, and drop off quickly.  Costilla Range returns to the dirt after firing a clunker on the turf last out.  His trainer, Roger Brueggemann, wins at 33% moving runners from turf to dirt.  His speed on dirt is downright sharp for this field, and he should be able to stalk close to the early pace — something suited by both the pace scenario and the track.  He drops in from $16,000 open company last out, but won at this same level going a mile and 70 yards two starts back.  He is strong both at this distance and over the Hawthorne course, and looks well spotted here.  In the third slot, it was a tough choice between Hapman and Tactics Best.  Hapman is a consistent, Iron Horse sort of nine-year-old, and often gets up for a share.  However, his deep closing style has two strikes against it: the way the track is playing, and the fact that there is not likely to be a lot of pace.  He will not go off much of a price, so instead consider Tactics Best.  He drops in from allowance company in his last three starts.  What is particularly intriguing about this placement is the short rest: Tactics Best just ran last Saturday.  This is not something trainer Andrew Hansen typically does, so for a price it is worth seeing why.  He does have three of his four career wins at this distance, and two wins over the Hawthorne main.  He is not the most consistent horse out there, but usually he puts up speeds that can be competitive in this kind of company.  Pacewise, he does his better work from midpack; he should not be so far away as to lose touch.  Rising, under-the-radar rider Rolando Aragon rides.  Tactics Best is admittedly speculative, but there will likely be the price to justify including him.
Race 6: Starter optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, starters for a claiming price of $7,500 or less in 2014 OR claiming price $18,000, six furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Virginia’s Joy (4), Itzacoldcase (3), Masquerade Fashion (6)
Fayreen is the only dyed-in-the-wool need-to-lead type in this field, but there are several who may try to go with her, and may outgun her given that she does her best over turf and not dirt.  Thus, the race looks like it may go to whoever handles this most shrewdly.  Virginia’s Joy looks well spotted here.  She is one of those uncommon Kittens who prefers running on dirt, and she has shown improvement in her two starts after being claimed by trainer Ingrid Mason.  She should be forwardly placed, which is a plus on this track at this time of year, but not necessarily right on the early pace.  She does her best work over the Hawthorne dirt, boasting an 8-3-3-1 lifetime mark over it.  She also has a win at this distance, and has hit the board in five of seven starts at six furlongs.  Itzacoldcase has some versatility; she can win races from the back or the front of the pack early.  This versatility could be very useful, depending on how many decide to send forth.  There is no doubt that this is her best track (site of six of her ten career wins) and distance (seven of her ten wins), and she has been on the board against similar company in both her other starts this meet.  Rider Tim Thornton, 19% in sprints and currently sitting second among riders for wins this meet, has the call again this time out.  Masquerade Fashion is a midpack type who should benefit if the front end gets too frisky.  This is her best distance;  she has attained four of her five career wins, and eight more in-the-money finishes, going six panels.  She was third against state-bred allowance company two back; even though she was fourth at a similar level (straight $18,000 claiming) last out, she was only beaten 2 1/4 lengths, and she was stretched out to six and a half furlongs.  She cuts back to this best distance today.  She is not necessarily the most consistent horse in the world, but can at times fire speeds that are strong for this field, and should have the pace setup to do one of her better efforts today.
Race 7: Allowance ($21,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, fillies and mares, six and a half furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Misty Miranda (11), Bonita Song (1), Karla With a K (10)

Misty Miranda notches a bit up in class here from starter optional company to state-bred allowance company, but her recent form puts her right on par with the sorts she faces here.  She should be forwardly placed, but has shown enough of a propensity to stalk that she should not get tied into anything damaging on the front.  That is good: Exquisite Lady is the speed of the speed, and can’t rate type Oh Suzanna will likely try to send as well.  Trying to go with Exquisite Lady would be a futile mission given her sharp early pace, but it should not be a big deal that she can’t — since she can stay in touch, and since Exquisite Lady has shown an exquisite tendency not to be able to win on the dirt.  She has a win and a second at this six and a half furlong distance, and that second was last out — when she crossed the wire first, and got taken down for some bumping.  She gets Israel Ocampo back from her last two starts, and Ocampo and trainer Steve Manley have won two of their last eight (with five in the money), for a +$2.08 ROI.  Bonita Song is another who should be able to stalk off the pace.  She tries dirt for the first time here.  However, if she can run in the neighbourhood of the form she shows on turf or poly (a possibility given some decent works over dirt), she fits nicely with this field.  She also cuts back to sprints for the first time since July.  Her last attempt at a sprint was her maiden win, and her breeding (by Dunkirk out of Meadow Bride, a Runaway Groom mare who won at a sprint distance) suggests that this cutback should be very good for her.  Finally, she gets a rider change to Tim Thornton — a sharp 22% with stalking types like her.  Karla With a K comes in here third off a lay.  Emmanuel Esquivel has the call for the first time: not only the top jockey in the colony, but one who has been getting live mounts recently from trainer Chris Dorris.  Last time out, she was second at this level going a flat six furlongs.  She was beaten just a length, despite being wide and being forced out down the stretch.  She stretches past six furlongs for the first time in her career, but her breeding (Limehouse out of a Military mare) suggests that extra half-furlong should be no sweat.  Pacewise, she is a mid-pack type; she should have some speed to attack, but is still a little bit of a question depending on how the track is playing.  Still, if she runs anywhere near her last out, she will be a formidable foe.
Race 8: Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII), three-year-olds and up, one and one fourth miles on the dirt

Selections:  Ever Rider (5), Cary Street (4), Mister Marti Gras (10), Hattaash (2)

There is no shortage of early speed in this race: Red Rifle and Midnight Aria are definitely going to send, and Abraham and Call Me George are likely to do so as well.  With that the case, an off-pace type who can get the distance looks good here.  Ever Rider is best known as a marathoner, but he has enough good outings at nine and ten furlongs to suggest he can cut back to the Classic distance.  He should be stalking, close enough to the pace to make any winter speed bias less worrisome, but far enough off to let the speedballs burn themselves out before pouncing late.  He has the speed to contend here, and his form has been sharp in his three starts since moving to the Marya Montoya barn.  Ever Rider will be tough to beat.  Cary Street, another marathon type, is not yet proven against this class of company at such a short distance.  Still, if he does not bounce off his run in the Las Vegas Marathon (GII), he surely contends.  He came from the clouds last out, but three back in the Greenwood Cup (GIII) he was able to chase from just a handful of lengths back and then survive a tough stretch duel against Ever Rider.  Miguel Mena, who rode him in both of these graded stakes attempts, returns to the irons today — a good thing, as it appears he knows how to get the best from Cary Street.  Mister Marti Gras runs in his fourth straight Hawthorne Gold Cup, and finished second last year.  He drops in here from a more difficult GII race last out, the Fayette.  Though he was fifth, he was still only beaten 2 1/2 lengths, and was closing up ground nicely late.  He gets a rider change here to Tim Thornton.  Though Thornton is better known for his front-end prowess, he is still 14% (and 48% in the money) with closing types like Mister Marti Gras, and his pile of riding titles show that few know the Hawthorne dirt like he does.  He is too consistent not to use.  Finally, for a super long shot (especially for undersides of intra-race exotics), consider Hattaash.  He has been up and down this year, but does his best work at Hawthorne.  Hattaash has ten wins in 50 starts — six have come in just 10 starts over the south side main.  Hattaash’s best performance this year was a second place finish, beaten just a head by Avanzare in the Washington Park Handicap (GIII) at Arlington this summer.  Sheldon Russell rode that day.  Russell is shipping down to ride him here, and this will be his first ride on Hattaash since the Washington Park.  He will likely be the longest shot on the board, but he should at least be able to invade the intra-race exotics.
Race 9: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt

Selections:  Yankee Hater (3), Dittman Thunder (2), In Red’s Honor (4)

The card ends with a contentious $5,000 N3L.  Yankee Hater should be forwardly placed early, which should work well given how the track has been playing.  He has versatility there; he can either set the fractions, or sit a bit off.  It looks like he will be best served sitting off here, just fine because he broke his maiden while rated.  He has not gotten it done on three starts over the Hawthorne dirt yet, but does have win over dirt at Fairmount, as well as a decent second there at a flat mile three back.  He is particularly attractive by virtue of being trained by Scott Becker, who is 26% with runners stretching from a sprint to a route, as well at 25% in claiming company in general.  Dittman Thunder comes in on a class rise, having cleared $5,000 N2L last out.  He gets Santo Sanjur back in the irons; the win last out was Sanjur’s first ride on this consistent runner.  Dittman Thunder has hit the board in his last six starts, and in seven of his ten career races.  He broke his maiden in July, and it only took him three starts to win again.  He may be a bit of a bounce risk from his win last out, but even a bounce from that last effort should be enough to contend given what this field can provide.  The pace is not certain to fall apart, but there is some chance given the surprising lack of a can’t rate type in a race of this level.  Still, whether the fractions are slow or fast, Dittman Thunder always fires, and always tries.  Finally, consider longshot In Red’s Honor, who is 15/1 on the morning line.  He is doing better than much of the field in that he has two wins at about this distance (one at 1 1/16 miles and one at 1 mile 70 yards), both of which have been over the Hawthorne main.  He should be forwardly placed, though he his also ratable, and the seven-pound bug allowance should assist him in carrying his speed.  Speaking of speed, he has shown the ability to fire speeds competitive in this field.  The cold trainer brings a little pause, but in a race like this in which grasping at gossamer threads is the name of the game, he has enough to justify him at what will be a very long price.

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