One of only two stakes races in Chicago this year happens this Saturday: the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, a $50,000 race that drew a field of seven juvenile fillies bred in the Land of Lincoln. This year marks a major change in the juvenile stakes this year in Illinois: instead of being run at a mile and a sixteenth, both the Whitworth and next week’s Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity have been shortened up to six and a half furlongs. It’s a positive change, between the lack of two-year-old dirt routes on the local circuit and the fact that the Edgar has had so much trouble filling up in recent years. Hopefully the shorter distance means enough of the girls and the boys take their shots to keep these races alive until, fingers crossed, Illinois breeding picks up again once the gaming bill’s impacts are felt.
Saturday, December 5
Race 5: Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, two-year-old Illinois-bred fillies, six and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 2:55pm CST
The odds-on favorite on the morning line is JOLINA. She has never been anywhere near that short a price; in three starts, her shortest odds were 21/1. But, don’t mistake her for some kind of fluke. She needed her first day of school, at Arlington, but second-out she broke like a shot and wired a maiden special weight dirt sprint in the Hawthorne mud, and then she returned to finish a credible third in an allowance at Indiana Grand last out. She shapes as the controlling speed, especially after she hit the front so quickly and just kept going. JOLINA will have to prove herself on dry dirt, but why can’t she? Her pedigree is about as versatile as it gets, surface-wise. She is by Lemon Drop Kid out of Julie Be Good, a winning sprinter on both turf and synthetic — she never tried dirt, but she is a a half-sister to both Grade 3 winning dirt sprinter Summer Mis and 2002 Illinois Breeders Debutante winner Julie’s Prize. So, there’s plenty of chance she’ll be fine on dry dirt.
Her toughest foe looks to be KATIE M’LADY. She has run only twice, both times on turf, and both races have been very good. On debut going five furlongs at Arlington, she sat a few lengths off the pace, made her run, and missed by less than a length behind a horse coming off a pretty good race at Ellis. She returned at Hawthorne, stretched out to a mile on the lawn, and led the field on a merry chase. Now that she cuts back to a sprint, she’s probably going to have to revert to that style from her debut. But, the fact that she’s going six and a half furlongs and not five plays in her favor, and even though she’s inside the speed? She was drawn toward the inside in that debut, too, in an even bigger field. It’s also worth noting that KATIE M’LADY’s trainer Michele Boyce is having an excellent Hawthorne meet, with nine wins already, including three with two-year-olds. Dirt is the biggest question for KATIE M’LADY, since she hasn’t tried it yet. But, her sire Dominus has been downright excellent with dirt horses. And, even though KATIE M’LADY’s family has done a lot on the grass? There’s some dirt form there, too: KATIE M’LADY’s half-sister Freedom Lass ran second in the Showtime Deb last year at Hawthorne, and her dam is half to MY MERTIE, a Grade 3-winning polytrack sprinter who was also a stakes-winning sprinter on dirt. With some dirt pedigree and the adaptability she has shown with respect to both distance and surface, as long as the track isn’t speed-biased on Saturday, KATIE M’LADY should make a race of it.
The field drops off a bit from the top two: among the five other entrants are two winners, one maiden with a race underneath her, and a pair of first-time starters. Neither of the first-time starters, HEART OF REASON or FULL OF HEART, are particularly precociously bred, neither do they come from barns that light the track on fire first time out. AVASARALA has a race already, and her pedigree should suit the six and a half furlong trip just fine, but she is also bred to need some time and trainer Wayne Catalano’s record with second-start two-year-olds trends a lot better for underneath shares than for outright winning.
That leaves a pair from the Arthur Coontz barn: one we’ll talk about in the longshot segment, and one we’ll talk about here. MY MORNING GAL won her debut at Fairmount, and has since raced twice against winners at Indiana Grand. She has never looked a winner in those allowance tries, but she has hit the board in both, once on dirt and once on the grass. And, this is a class drop from open N2Ls: after all, this is basically an Illinois-bred N1X with a few maidens taking a shot, too. She can be tactical, even from an inside gate. Her pedigree also supports the stretch out to six and a half furlongs, her longest distance yet: extended sprints and miles tend to suit Morning Line babies well, and she’s out of a Tapit mare who also produced Spring City Gal, who is a miler, and who finished second in the Whitworth in 2016.
#3 KATIE M’LADY (9/5)
#1 JOLINA (1/1)
#1 MY MORNING GAL (6/1)
Longshot: The other of the Arthur Coontz brigade, #5 SHE’S A BIG STAR (10/1), is the only one who comes into the Pat Whitworth with a victory over dry Hawthorne dirt. The issue is, that came in a $25,000 maiden claimer, where she wasn’t running against horses like KATIE M’LADY or JOLINA, and no matter what speed figures you trust that race came back on the slow side. However, her pedigree is well suited to the extra half-furlong of distance: like her stablemate, she is by sprinter/miler sire Morning Line, and she’s a half-sister to a pair of milers, including 2018 Springfield Stakes winner Chief Oakie Dokie. Between that and the fact that she’s got the fitness and experience of three starts behind her, SHE’S A BIG STAR has the most upside of the longer shots.
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