2016 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante Preview

We had to wait until December, but the stakes season at Hawthorne has finally arrived.  This year’s stakes calendar features a pair of stakes races for two-year-olds.  This week’s stakes race, the feature event for Illinois-bred juvenile fillies carries the name of the name of longtime Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation (ITBOF) board member Pat Whitworth (1936-2011).  This year’s edition of the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante drew a field of eleven to contend for a share of a $50,000 purse — and a pretty good shot at being named the state’s champion two-year-old filly.  This year’s field also ties into multiple patterns from recent editions of the race.

Owner-breeders Asiel Stable, represented by both ROMANCIN N DANCIN and PURE BLARNEY in this year’s edition of the Pat Whitworth, have seen success in the race before.  Rolling Sea (2005) came into the Pat Whitworth off a victory in a $25,000 maiden claimer, winning the race at 28/1 odds.  She developed into a classy, durable mare.  She won stakes every year from ages two through six, including the 2007 Allaire DuPont Distaff (GII) and the 2007 Chilukki Stakes (GII).  Another Asiel homebred, Copper State (2006), also proved her mettle against top-class mares.  Though she never won in graded company, Copper State finished second behind in both the Go for Wand Handicap (GI) and the Ruffian Handicap (GI) in 2008.

2014 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante winner Tizgorgeous asks nicely for peppermints. (Photo: Nicolle Neulist)

2014 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante winner Tizgorgeous asks nicely for peppermints. (Photo: Nicolle Neulist)

Younger sires have made their mark in recent editions of the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.  In 2013, Lakotadreamcatcher became Illinois-bred stallion Fort Prado’s first stakes winner.  The next year, Tizgorgeous notched the first stakes win for her sire, Tizdejavu.  This year, a pair of longshots give up-and-coming Illinois stallion Forest Attack a chance for his first stakes winner: Fairmount invaders ICE ATTACK and JOSIE JEWELL.  A pair of first-crop sires are also represented: Shackleford (NEUQUA) and Maclean’s Music (SHE’S ALL READY).  Though both have had stakes winners, this would be the first two-turn stakes win for each of these sires.

Morning lines were not available at original publish time.  Updated Thursday, December 1 to add morning lines.  Edited Saturday, December 3 to account for the scratch of ROMANCIN N DANCIN.

Saturday, December 3 – Hawthorne Race Course

Race 7: Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, two-year-old fillies, Illinois-bred, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 3:55pm CST

Among Illinois-bred juvenile fillies this year, none made as dazzling a debut as JOLEE.  She took all the early money despite a double-digit morning line.  Then, she ran to it.  She tracked the early pace of Staria Peach, took command, and won by five easy lengths.  That came over five furlongs; this will be her first try at a route.  But, the breeding suggests that JOLEE will relish the stretch out.  Sire Lemon Drop Kid produces two-turn horses (and, sometimes, three-turn horses — looking at you, Da Big Hoss), and though dam Summer Mis was a classy sprinter, all four of her other foals to win have done so at two turns.  Even Summer Mis herself finished second in the 2001 Illinois Debutante, the two-turn race now known as the Pat Whitworth.  If Carlos Castro can sit JOLEE off the early pace from the likes of PURE BLARNEY, KALISPELL, and NEUQUA, she will be hard to catch down the lane if she takes any step forward from her unveiling.

Beyond JOLEE, the field gets murky.  One clear pattern over recent years, however, is that trainer Carlos Silva always seems to have a horse or two who show up in the state-bred juvenile stakes.  Silva originally had a pair in the Whitworth this year: ROMANCIN N DANCIN and PURE BLARNEY.  PURE BLARNEY looks like the “A” Silva, given her try against winners last out and her strong maiden win against open maiden fillies at Arlington two back.  However, that first try on dirt was a clunker, and KALISPELL and NEUQUA will make things tough for this one-way speed.  ROMANCIN N DANCIN originally had the nod for second, but she scratched the morning of the race.  With the other speed and the likely short price on PURE BLARNEY, this space will bet that Silva uncharacteristically gets shut out this time around.

With the scratch, the second spot was a close call between maiden SHE’S FINE TUNED and the only two-time winner in the field, BABYBLUESBDANCING.  Though SHE’S FINE TUNED has yet to win, she has six starts under her belt, including a pair of two-turn tries on grass.  She has been competitive against open maidens, a plus against this lightly-raced state-bred field.  A step forward on dirt will put her in this, and it would be no surprise to see her take a step forward.  However, given that her siblings have shown a bit more on poly and turf than dirt, BABYBLUESBDANCING appeals just a bit more.  The light has come on with this daughter of Sky Mesa, and she has won her last two starts.  Two back she got her diploma in a state-bred $100K maiden claimer (a de facto Illinois maiden special weight), crossing the wire well clear of second-place SHE’S FINE TUNED.  She returned in a one-other-than AOC, albeit up for the $75K tag, and won again by daylight.  That was her first start over the Hawthorne dirt.  The humans also appeal.  Rider Julio Felix, the hottest pilot in the colony, has been aboard for all of BABYBLUESBDANCING’s starts.  And, trainer Terrel Gore has had a good meet with select starters: three wins and three thirds over just 14 starts.  The stretch out is the question, but BABYBLUESBDANCING’s form and connections make her a major player.

Selections:

#2 JOLEE (7/2)

#8 BABYBLUESBDANCING (3/1)

#10 SHE’S FINE TUNED (4/1)

Longshot: #3 ILLINI KITTEN (30/1) has not seen the starter since August, which is a concern.  But, she will be a price, and hails from a barn who has been able to send out Fairmount invaders to win stakes at bomb odds before: remember fellow Gail Macari trainee Lady Kelia in the Pretty Jenny last spring?  Her work at Fairmount was solid this summer.  Yes, her debut was a clunker.  But she showed some second-start progression, then won her third start by open lengths.  She is a closer, and the late pace she showed in her maiden win suggests that ILLINI KITTEN could come rallying well into the likely hot pace.  Distance is a question, as all three of her downstate starts came at one turn.  But, the “Kitten” bit makes her intriguing on the stretch out.  ILLINI KITTEN is a daughter of The Bold Bruiser, but her dam Facelift is by strong stamina influence Kitten’s Joy.  Though Facelift never raced, she has two full siblings who won going two turns and two half-siblings who did so as well.

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