Saturday’s card at Hawthorne features the second of Hawthorne’s pair of juvenile stakes this meet: the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity. Just like its fillies’ complement, last week’s Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, the Jim Edgar has been shortened up to six and a half furlongs. And, the change in distance paid dividends: instead of failing to fill, as it has the last two years when run at the mile and a sixteenth distance, the race drew a field of nine to contend for a $50,000 purse.
Saturday, December 12: Hawthorne Race Course
Race 3: Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity, two-year-old Illinois-breds, six and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:55pm CST
Trainer Larry Rivelli sends out a trio. It makes sense, given that he is traditionally strong with two-year-olds, and has had a strong hold on Illinois-bred juvenile stakes in recent years. He won the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity with Rambling Richie (2013), Dom the Bomb (2014), Richie the Bull (2015), and Pass the Gravy (2017). Even in 2019, when the two-turn Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity did not fill but Hawthorne did card a Jim Edgar Illinois Juvenile Stakes at one turn, Rivelli won it with Mind Your Own Biz.
The best of the Rivelli brigade is RICHIESGOTGAME. Though he is unlikely to make the lead over stablemate VALIANT VINNY, RICHIESGOTGAME has shown that he does not need the lead to win. He tracked the pace and won by a length on debut in a turf mile at Arlington, and effectively shortened up to seven furlongs on dirt for an open $50,000 claimer at Churchill on November 21. He won that in stalking fashion, too. Though he was in for a tag last time, this is probably a class drop given the state-bred restriction, and it makes RICHIESGOTGAME the only one in this field who actually has a win against winners. His stablemates in the Rivelli barn may take some interest at the windows — VALIANT VINNY is probably the early speed, and FLASHY RICHIE will probably be well-prepared like Rivelli firsters tend to be — but RICHIESGOTGAME probably goes off the favorite, and he has done enough to be one of the major contenders.
VERRAZANOINTHESKY, however, may have something to say about Rivelli’s stranglehold on the Edgar. The Brad Cox trainee has visited Illinois once before, coming to Arlington and winning an open maiden special weight turf dash this summer. He then ran third in a turf dash allowance at Indiana Grand. Though he was the beaten chalk that day, the race came back good — very good. Winner Beer Can Man came back to win the Cecil B. DeMille (G3) at Del Mar, and both second-place Charles Chrome and fourth-place I’m Money came back to win in protected company. VERRAZANOINTHESKY has the tactical speed to carve out a good trip. And, though he has never tried dirt? His sire Verrazano handled it well, and his dam Nora in the Sky did as well. Nora in the Sky’s only other runner to date, also shines at one turn on the dirt: that foal is none other than full brother Verrazano First, who has already won four main-track sprints this fall at Hawthorne.
As we know from last week’s Whitworth: even in a field that looks like it has a few standouts? Things can get strange, especially with two-year-olds. The only time since 2013 when a race was run in Jim Edgar’s name and Larry Rivelli didn’t win it, Michele Boyce won it in 2016 with Devileye. And, if any of the longer shots rains on the parade of the shorter-priced horses, it will probably be her entrant BEEALEA. It will require a step forward, since there are some solid protected horses in this field and BEEALEA had to drop in for $25,000 to get the maiden-breaker last out. But, the win did come against open company and not state-breds, and he came on well in the lane to get the win. The question is how much pace unfolds, since someone is probably going to need to go with VALIANT VINNY in order to set up for BEEALEA. But, VERRAZANOINTHESKY and RICHIESGOTGAME won’t be too far away, and it would be no surprise for FLASHY RICHIE to show some pace (assuming he stays in). BEEALEA’s pedigree suggests that six and a half furlongs should suit him just fine, and the rail shouldn’t be that big of a deal since BEEALEA won from the fence last out. With upside to improve third-time out, he could surprise some people.
#7 VERRAZANOINTHESKY (5/2)
#2 RICHIESGOTGAME (8/5)
#1 BEEALEA (20/1)
Longshot: #8 CACHACO (20/1) is another who is stepping up from the claiming ranks to face protected Illinois-breds. He is one of the five maidens in the field, though he does have a bit of experience. The debut wasn’t a lot, to be sure; he was a well-beaten fifth of eight in a $32,000 maiden claimer at Indiana Grand. But, it came against open company and he did beat several horses home. CACHACO also gets a few key changes. He moves into the barn of Hugo Rodriguez, who does well with both new arrivals and second-start maidens. He straps on blinkers, which could help him get a little closer up early. His pedigree suggests the extra half-furlong could move him forward. And, he gets Rafael Hernandez in the irons; once a regular at Fairmount, Hernandez was Woodbine’s leading rider this year, and he was riding well upon return to Illinois last weekend. It feels like grasping gossamer threads, sure, but CACHACO will be the kind of price that they are enough to make him interesting, at least for a piece of the exotics.
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