The stakes calendar continues at Hawthorne this week with the Sun Power Stakes, a six-furlong test for Illinois colts and geldings. It will be run this year for the first time since 2014, when Dom the Bomb romped to an easy 11 3/4 length victory. Dom the Bomb, trained by Larry Rivelli at the time, is a half-brother to last week's Showtime Deb Stakes winner Richie'slilwildcat.
The most accomplished among the winners of the Sun Power Stakes has been Sweet Luca (2011). The son of Candy Ride twice won the Addison Cammack Handicap at Arlington, including an upset of eventual Eclipse award-winning sprinter Work All Week in 2014. He also conquered open stakes company, winning the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash in 2015. One winner of the Sun Power Stakes went on to achieve graded stakes placing: Humor at Last (2004), sent off a 23/1 outsider in the 2015 Kentucky Cup Sprint Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park, rallied for a close second behind California shipper Estate Collection.
Like last week's Showtime Deb Stakes, the purse is $100,000: $75,000 available to Illinois-foaled horses no matter where they were conceived, and another $25,000 available to horses in the top five who were also sired by Illinois stallions. Among the nine horses in the field, three qualify for that. The entrants owned by William Stiritz and trained by Scott Becker -- CALEB'S HEIR, GHAALEB'S WINNER, and GITA'S LAD -- are all by Stiritz's Belleville, Illinois-based stallion Ghaaleb.
Race 7: Sun Power Stakes, Illinois-registered two-year-old colts and geldings, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:58pm CST
The forecast for Friday and Saturday of this week is a familiar one this Hawthorne meet: rain. Should that change, we will revisit our selections -- but at this point, Picks and Ponderings is handicapping the Sun Power Stakes with an eye toward an off track.
Most of the sires in this race are well enough established to have an idea of how they may influence their progeny to perform in the mud. The only exception is the aforementioned Ghaaleb, sire of three runners here. However, one could expect Ghaaleb to be at least a decent mud influence. Ghaaleb himself made a decent debut in the slop, his sire Unbridled's Song is himself a strong (18%) mud influence, and his dam produced stallion Iqbaal. Though Iqbaal hasn't had a lot of mud runners yet, the early returns are promising, with three of his first 12 off-track starters getting win pictures.
That matters, since GHAALEB'S WINNER looks so tough here. The Scott Becker trainee, who keeps Chris Emigh in the irons, has the strongest race record in the field: two open company victories and a third-place finish in the Arlington-Washington Futurity. He has a victory over the course and distance last out in an allowance. On pace, GHAALEB'S WINNER has a proven ability to stalk or close -- a positive, as so many in this field have done their best up front. The biggest question is mud. But, being by Ghaaleb out of useful off-track producer Win Won, he has every reason to handle the footing. GHAALEB'S WINNER will not be a long price, but this looks like a place in which trying to oppose him would be getting cute for cute's sake. He is a strong selection, even a logical single.
SIR ANTHONY faces winners for the first time here. He is the only one in the field with a victory over an off track already, as he graduated last out over good dirt at Hawthorne. It was an encouraging step forward for his first time on dirt, and his first time with blinkers. Though he was forward, he was able to press for a while before taking over, a positive with so much other speed in this race. IM THE BEST I KNOW, DEMAND RANSOM, CALEB'S HEIR, and PASS THE GRAVY all appear to do their best on the lead, and RUN FOR CHARLIE may be forced to send from the rail. If one of the Rivelli pair (DEMAND RANSOM and PASS THE GRAVY) scratches, as is likely, that still leaves a lot of pace in this race -- and makes the likelihood that SIR ANTHONY can sit a bit off a critical point in his favour.
Among the speed horses, DEMAND RANSOM seems the best of the lot. His trainer Larry Rivelli's record in two-year-old stakes races in Illinois demands respect. Rivelli does have a pair in the race -- and both are unlikely to remain, as they are both speed horses, and running them against each other went poorly last out, since both just faded. DEMAND RANSOM looks the better of the two, and given the rider assignments, the fact that he has Julio Felix named and PASS THE GRAVY has Rodney Prescott suggests that DEMAND RANSOM is the one more likely to stay. (Rivelli has been working far more regularly with Felix than Prescott this fall.) And, with the rain in the forecast? DEMAND RANSOM is by strong slop stallion Munnings, and out of a mare by Tapit, another strong off-track influence.
#3 GHAALEB'S WINNER (2/1)
#8 SIR ANTHONY (6/1)
#6 DEMAND RANSOM (9/2)
Longshot: #4 MR. LUV MAKER (8/1) is one of a pair of longer shots who could be closing credibly here, the other being GITA'S LAD. The major question with MR. LUV MAKER is rider Francisco Giles, who is 1-57 on the meet. On a dry track, perhaps the Scott Becker/Victor Santiago team behind GITA'S LAD would give him the edge here, despite his being a maiden. But, that concern about Giles is allayed somewhat since Giles has another 11 money finishes on the meet -- including getting MR. LUV MAKER up for second behind GHAALEB'S WINNER in an allowance last month. The rain also benefits MR. LUV MAKER strongly. Though Ghaaleb should be an okay slop sire, Gita (dam of GITA'S LAD) has not produced an off-track winner. On the other hand, MR. LUV MAKER's sire Exchange Rate is a 17% slop winner, and the dam side bodes even better. Plus Beau has produced eleven winners so far, and five have won over an off track: Dundalk Dust, Luv Bandit, Ocean Isle, Oughta Be Mine, and Wantedtobeagray. Between the pace and his breeding, MR. LUV MAKER has every right to outrun his odds.
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