2019 Powerless Handicap Preview

This race honours Powerless, perhaps the most surprising namesake of an Illinois-bred sprint stakes race.  She certainly deserves to be remembered: a hard-knocking daughter of Southern Count, she raced most of her 73 career starts in Illinois, and won twelve of those outings.  Yet, she was bred in Kentucky.  Her lone stakes score, a convincing 10/1 upset in the second division of the Yo Tambien Handicap at Hawthorne, came at a mile and a sixteenth.  Her one stakes-winning daughter, Hight Light (by Slewpy), won the one-mile James Wiggins Handicap at Solano Fair.

The Powerless Handicap was the fall sprint stakes race for Illinois-bred fillies and mares from 2000 through 2014, then was run again in 2017, and returns for 2019 after another one-year hiatus.  (The sprint stakes that PUNTSVILLE won in the fall of 2015 was Illinois-preferred, not Illinois-restricted, and was called the Pershing Handicap.)

The Powerless Handicap winners’ list includes many of the best Illinois-bred sprinters of the last two decades — and, in many cases, broodmares.  Onetime Illinois-bred stakes namesakes Third Chance (2011) and Pretty Jenny (2006) both won this race.  Two mares have won this race twice: Denoun N Deverb (2005, 2007 — and later, the dam of multiple stakes-winning Illinois-bred Sasy Ms Elizabeth) and Missjeanlouise (2012, 2013).

The most accomplished among Powerless winners is Summer Mis (2003), who won several times in open stakes company, including the 2003 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. Summer Mis’s daughter Summer Again (Empire Maker) finished second to Royal Posh in the 2014 edition of the Powerless; Summer Again’s first daughter Summer Day (Sky Mesa) is a winner at this year’s Hawthorne meet, winning a turf mile maiden special weight on October 24.

Friday, November 15 – Hawthorne Race Course

Race 7: Powerless Handicap, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-registered fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:58pm

This year’s edition of the Powerless drew a field of seven — and six of the seven are in uncoupled same-trainer pairs.  Trainer Steve Manley sends out MEEKA and SISTER RULER.  Scott Becker has his stalwart DANDY GAL and his up-and-comer W W FITZY.  Larry Rivelli has sprint buzzsaw JEAN ELIZABETH and two-turn longshot GODDESS OF KIP.  Only PUNTSVILLE, trained by Michele Boyce, is the lone standard-bearer for her barn.

There is a lot of speed in this race: among seven entrants, go, go, go! is the order of the day for JEAN ELIZABETH, SISTER RULER, PUNTSVILLE, and MEEKA.  JEAN ELIZABETH, a last-out G3 winner on Tapeta, is the speed of the speed. She is the one to beat: 9-for-15 lifetime, 5-for-6 at the distance, and never off the board in her career.  She’s reliable: she shows up, she comes away like a shot, and she dares them to catch her.  She’s a bit more proven on synthetic surfaces, but with two wins in four starts over conventional dirt, she looms large.

SISTER RULER is a talented three-year-old, and she has some grit to stay on if the early pace is fast…but especially against horses these good, it’s a little tough to love her if she’s not making the top, and she’s not making the top without a few scratches.

PUNTSVILLE and MEEKA are both best when they can make the top.  Both have shown some form, even some winning form, when relegated to just off the pace, but it’s not their tip-top game.  PUNTSVILLE is interesting getting back on dirt; she hasn’t been back in state-bred company on dirt in two years, and even though she’s winless in five starts this year, she was facing mostly tougher horses in her dirt starts and that good second two starts back behind Hotshot Anna suggests that she still has some racehorse in her.

The Becker pair of DANDY GAL and W W FITZY both not only can show tactical speed, but affirmatively do their best work from just off the pace.  Both of them have layoff questions to answer: W W FITZY has been out of the starting gate since August, DANDY GAL since May.  DANDY GAL, at her best, is good enough to give JEAN ELIZABETH a run for her money — of course, the question is whether DANDY GAL can be at her best first off a six-month layoff.  She does have enough really nice first-off-the-lay efforts to think she might, though: earlier this year she ran down a really good one in Go Lady Jay, first off the layoff.  And, last year, she won the Third Chance Handicap — an Illinois-bred stakes race over this course and distance — first off the layoff.

GODDESS OF KIP is the only real closer in the field.  Though, she’s a bit hard to trust in this spot: she’s been short of her best form this year.  Perhaps she is sprinting to try and shake things up a bit, but she has done her better work routing, mainly on grass, and has never been at her best on dirt or in sprints.


#3 DANDY GAL (7/2)

Longshot: 2019 Sharon N. Kirby Memorial winner #7 W W FITZY (8/1) gets a class test in this, her first start against older stakes horses.  Though, it’s not her first start against older: she’s 5-for-9 lifetime, and aside from that win in the Kirby?  All four of her other wins have come against older horses, a maiden special weight win and three allowance victories.  All four of those came on dirt, including two at Hawthorne, so the footing is no question.  Of course, these are the toughest horses, top-to-bottom, that W W FITZY has ever seen.  But, it is the logical next step for her.  She has tactical speed, she is razor-sharp when racing fresh, and she is the most appealing of the upset candidates.


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