2019 Lightning Jet Handicap Preview

Illinois-bred Lightning Jet never won a stakes race, and only started in stakes races twice.  But, he is still a worthy namesake for a race, since he deserves to be remembered.  He earned almost $150,000 on the track the hard way from 1973 through 1980, with 21 wins and another 31 money finishes in 99 career starts from ages two through nine, racing mainly in Chicago and bouncing between the claiming, allowance, and handicap ranks.

The Lightning Jet Handicap was the fall sprint stakes race for Illinois-bred older horses from 2000 through 2014. Though Hawthorne did run a fall sprint stakes in 2015, since it was open to Illinois-preferred company (not just Illinois-registered), the fall sprint stakes race was run as the Blackhawk Handicap. On hiatus in 2016, the Lightning Jet returned in 2017, then took a break last year and returns this year.

Among Lightning Jet winners, one star shines brightest at the national level: Work All Week, the 2014 Eclipse-winning male sprinter, won this race the year before. That day he defeated a pair of previous Lightning Jet winners: Signsealndeliver (2012) and Four Left Feet (2011). The latter remains in training at the age of eleven, has won three of ten starts this year, and is closing in on half a million dollars in career earnings.

River Bear, another ageless fan favourite who won almost a million dollars running mainly in Illinois, won the 2010 edition of the Lightning Jet. Like its fillies’ complement, the Lightning Jet has a pair of two-time winners: Magic Doe (2000, 2001) and Mighty Rule (2007, 2009).

Saturday, November 16 – Hawthorne Race Course

Race 6: Lightning Jet Handicap, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-registered, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:30pm CST

The Lightning Jet drew a field of ten horses: a good field, a deep field, and a field full of intriguing questions.

Two of them come in with serious open stakes form: RICHIESINTHEHOUSE and WYNN TIME.  RICHIESINTHEHOUSE has been cleaning up at Golden Gate, Arlington, Presque Isle, and Woodbine this year — he’s a one-turn synthetic-track monster, and even has a graded stakes placing over the lawn this fall.  Though, he isn’t proven yet on dirt.  There’s not much one can glean from his single try over fast dirt, since it came in a Grade 2 at Keeneland this year, a level that may have been a bit tough for him, even on his best surface.  Maybe RICHIESINTHEHOUSE will like dirt: after all, both of his half-siblings to race (Rake It Up and Burn the Lute) are winners on the footing.  He’s the speed of the speed from the rail, and Jose Valdivia, Jr. flies east from Del Mar to ride him (and Big Drink of Water, in an allowance at Churchill earlier in the day).  But — he will have to prove himself on dirt against a tough field, and he carries the second-highest weight.

WYNN TIME is the highweight, at 124.  But, he’s also the proven dirt sprinter in the field, and he’s a win machine: 8-for-11 lifetime, and never off the board.  Dirt is not his only surface — he’s a stakes winner over both dirt and turf, and a maiden winner on polytrack, just for good measure — but six furlongs on dirt is his best game.  The question with WYNN TIME is the layoff, since he hasn’t raced since January.  But, he has been able to come back razor-sharp from a layoff before.  WYNN TIME also hails from a hot barn: trainer Hugh Robertson has nine wins on the meet, including three on Thursday, November 14.  Marcelino Pedroza — not a Chicago regular, but WYNN TIME’s regular pilot at Fair Grounds — hops on the plane to take the call.  It’s not an easy spot first off the lay, but WYNN TIME should be ready.

Those are the two marquee horses, but they won’t be facing softballs.

DEVILEYE is a mainstay at this level; he ran second to Goneghost the last time this race was run, two years ago.  He was laid off most of the year, and may not have gotten a whole lot in his first race back, the Buck’s Boy Handicap.  (He can go a route if he needs, but so far he hasn’t been the same on turf as on dirt and polytrack.)  He ran fifth in an allowance next out over this course and distance, and has tables to turn on W W COOKIE MONSTER and WHAT’S UP DUDE from the last.  But, he can improve third off the lay, and it was a good sign that he made his run into the lane and just flattened out a bit late.  The pace should be strong, with SCARLET CITY and RICHIESINTHEHOUSE, and even W W COOKIE MONSTER, WYNN TIME, and COLONEL KLINK likely to be forward.  If DEVILEYE got some fitness from that last start, we may just see the best of him again.

Trainer Scott Becker has a pair in this, W W COOKIE MONSTER and ARCHIEMYBOY.  ARCHIEMYBOY has tables to turn on most of these, as well as a tendency to run underneath.  W W COOKIE MONSTER is far more intriguing.  He returned from a seven-month layoff to run second in an allowance, missing by just a nose behind a tough horse in Dugout.  He is a consistent runner: six wins and three seconds in ten starts.  His only off-the-board finish came in a try at two turns; the Ghaaleb babies tend to prefer sprinting, anyway.  All nine of his other starts have come at today’s six-furlong trip.  W W COOKIE MONSTER has upside to improve second off the lay, and though he has speed, he has proven (especially with that late run last out) that he can adapt when other horses are bent on gunning it early.  W W COOKIE MONSTER hasn’t faced a field this tough yet, but he is in the right form to try it, and deserves a long look.

Selections:

#8 WYNN TIME (3/1)
#4 DEVILEYE (8/1)
#3 W W COOKIE MONSTER (6/1)

Longshot:  A pair of the longshots drew a long look.  The versatile WILE E PEYOTE finally found something he couldn’t do last out, finding two turns on grass against the likes of Blue Sky Kowboy (who is trying graded company on Saturday) and Cammack too tough in the Buck’s Boy.  The cut back to six furlongs is a positive, though he still has to prove himself on fast dirt.  If he likes it, he could run into the exotics.  Though, this space finds an even better case to make for #2 COLONEL KLINK (12/1).  The lightly-raced three-year-old’s record is a tale of two horses: he’s a Hawthorne horse-for-the-course, and still trying to find his sea legs everywhere else.  COLONEL KLINK is already a two-time winner this meet, winning both a Illinois allowance and an open allowance-optional.  The open one was a tough condition: two-other-than or non-winners of four or $32,500 claiming.  It was a class test that he passed.  He keeps jockey Edgar Perez from both his local wins, he is versatile enough to carve out a stalking trip, and he is still young and lightly-enough raced to move forward the way he needs to in order to pass this test.  COLONEL KLINK just might salute at a big price.

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