Hawthorne racing recap: Saturday, March 8

I had forgotten just how draining it was on Breeders’ Cup Saturday to be incessantly bouncing between the Hawthorne races and the Santa Anita races.  Turns out, that’s nothing compared to bouncing between the Hawthorne races and a long list of races at several different tracks.  There were points in the middle of the afternoon when races were running on top of each other, and I had one eye on the Hawthorne track and another eye on a simulcast.  I feel like I had plenty of time to handicap the races on paper, but would have appreciated more time between races to breathe, process the results, and spend my usual time in the Hawthorne paddock analyzing the horses there.  I wrote down all the races and the times they were set to go, and I still managed to get so messed up on time that I just caught the Gulfstream Park Handicap as the gates were opening, with no time to go put any money on Palace Malice’s hard-fighting, game, and ultimately winning nose.

Of course, the way things went at Hawthorne today, the best way for Palace Malice to have lost that Gulfstream Park Handicap would have been if I had put that money right on his nose.

Race 1:  $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

Last Gun In Texas (3) looked great in the paddock.  In response to that, and the way Roman Flame (5) and Perfect Breeze (6) fit the race on paper, I bet a $1 exacta box on 3, 5, 6.  Had Last Gun In Texas not looked as good as he did I would have kept him off the top side, but not losing that top spot to a horse that looked so ready to run made it worth putting him on both sides.

The first horse I reset aside while handicapping was Tasin Tom; he only had one recorded work at Fairmount last weekend, and the only reason he was an N3L instead of an N2L was because he won a race in December becasue Roman Flame was disqualified from ahead of him.  It looked like Roman Flame was going to win again, since down the stretch Roman Flame got the lead and Tasin Tom was way back.  But, something strange happened: Tasin Tom fired.  After losing ground early, he came barreling down the stretch, right past everyone.  It was sudden: Roman Flame looked good to win, and out of nowhere he didn’t.

Roman Flame held on for second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Tasin Tom.  EZ Entry, another horse who looked quite good in the paddock (and the one I pegged as most likely to beat my exacta box) came in third.  Last Gun In Texas was fourth; no matter how ready he looked to race, he needs some more ground than five and a half furlongs.  Perfect Breeze just faded late.  He was near the lead for most of the race, but faded to fifth in the final furlong.

The scuttlebutt on Twitter after the race however, implied that this is not the first time it has happened that a lightly worked shipper from Fairmount has popped up this meet and pulled a surprise win.  I’ll have to look up the stats so far this meet, and keep an eye on that stat as the meet progresses.  I wish I had heard this scuttlebutt before the race; you don’t often get 33.7-1 shots in 6 horse fields, and at those odds, I may have considered fluttering two bucks Tasin Tom’s way.  It’s not a definite, since his race record was so bad, but it would have been worth at least a thought.

Race 2: $8,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt

Before the race, I really only had any interest in Lilly Kisses (5) and Saigee Girl (1) — Mutually Exclusive (3) and Spirit of a Nation (6) were career maidens, and both Valley of Decision (2) and Field House (4) were entirely too well beaten in previous races without other obvious redeeming factors.  However, Lilly Kisses acted up so badly in the paddock that I couldn’t put any money on her.  She was stomping, kicking, bucking — it had been such a long time since I had ever seen a horse blow that much energy in the paddock before a race.  I wasn’t quite confident enough in Saigee Girl to put her as the only horse at the top of the exacta, so I pulled Mutually Exclusive up there as well.  She was 15-0-1-2 career, but she was dropping to the lowest level of her career, and that was enough to put her in as my substitute for the nutty Lilly Kisses.  I did a $1 exacta, 1,3/1,2,3,4,6.

As an aside, Spirit Of A Nation went off at 4-5.  That baffled me.  I would have rather put win money on Valley of Decision or Field House at any odds than on Spirit Of A Nation.  Going into this race, she was 28-0-5-4.  I couldn’t care less that Timothy Thornton had the mount.  She was a threat to hit the board, which is why I included her in the bottom rung of the exacta, but to win?  The only way I would even consider her is if she were running in a field that consisted entirely of twenty-plus race maidens.  I don’t know what the bettors were thinking there.

In the race, Saigee Girl got the early lead.  She was really who I was hoping would come in, not only because she was one of my picks pre-race, but the odds were far more lucrative on her.  Alas, she drifted wide coming into the stretch and faded a bit.  Mutually Exclusive, the horse in on the class drop, came up through the hole Saigee Girl take the lead, and carried that to the wire.  Second was Spirit Of A Nation, who was coming up along the rail late, but didn’t have the room to pass Mutually Exclusive.  Lilly Kisses finished a well-beaten third.  She lacked the energy to fire and catch the leaders — energy she probably wasted throwing a tantrum in the paddock.

Race 3: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of a race since September 18, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt

I likes Summer’s Empire (3) and Star of Paradise (4) to win.  I thought Ikaros (6) could fire a good one, but not a winning one given the competition he was up against, because there wasn’t going to be enough early speed for him to close into.  Therefore, I did a $1 exacta, 3,4/3,4,6.  I also tried a Pick 3 here, 3,4/1/3,6.

I pegged Star of Paradise correctly as the likely early speed.  He shot up early, and kept that early speed through the stretch.  The race would have been his, if not for one surprising element to the shape of the race: Ikaros.  I was right in that he had a great shot at racing well.  However, he wasn’t back midpack or closing as he has been in all of his recent races.  Instead, he stalked just behind Star of Paradise, steadily gaining on him through the far turn and into the stretch, and got ahead to win.  Ikaros’ last out, a race under these same conditions on February 21, he raced closer to the lead than he had in 2013, but not nearly as close to the lead as he was this time out.  It looks like his connections are trying something a bit new for him, and it may be working.

His new style did not work for me, however; both my exacta and my Pick 3 were dead in the water.

Summer’s Empire, the other horse I thought had a shot, ended up fifth beaten 10 1/2 lengths.  He got a place midpack, which wasn’t a red flag given that he has won some races from there.  However, he failed to fire, and steadily lost ground down the stretch.

Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt

In this race, I really only liked Love You Mon (1).  The entry of Love You Mon and Hug N Make Up (1A) was bet down heavily, down to 4-5 by post time, so I wasn’t exactly interested in straight bets on him.  I figured that the horse most likely to close and make up some ground on Love You Mon’s lead was Cosmic Brew (4), since he didn’t tend to come from too terribly far off the pace, a perfectly decent position to pick everyone off except for the likely lone speed.  I did a $1 exacta of 1/4 as well as a $1 Daily Double of 1/3,6 (the same as the last two legs of my dearly departed Pick 3 ticket).

My undoing came in thinking that Martyrforthecause wouldn’t fire.  Horse racing is a game of odds, and speaking in those terms, the odds were that he wouldn’t fire — but if he fired, he could be a threat on the early speed.  Well, Martyrforthecause did fire, and he and Love You Mon went head and head into the far turn.  One of the horses had less coming into the stretch, however, and that horse was Love You Mon.  Martyrforthecause cruised to a five length win, and Love You Mon settled for second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of the third-place Contemporary Art.  It was interesting to see Contemporary Art; I considered him in the bottom half of my exacta, as one who could have closed into the speed horses, but thought he generally did better on the turf or synthetic at Arlington, so gave him a pass.  Instead, he got the show (albeit a well-beaten one), a quarter of a length ahead of the fading Cosmic Brew.

Race 5: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N3L OR non-winner since September 8, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt

Oh, Rock And Roll Star.  Ohhhh, Rock And Roll Star.  You are pretty, you are grey, and you have an amazing name.  You were coming off a nice little win last November when I first caught wind of you, but you disappointed me time and time again through the closing weeks of last fall’s Hawthorne meet.  Just when I decided I had lost too many bets on you last meet, and would not make the same mistake this meet, you go and do this.

What’s “this”?  Well, the race looked on paper like a speed mess where Clontarf (6) was going to pick up the pieces.  If any of the horses I anticipated would be near the front took the race, I saw Run Mama Beare Run (3) being that horse.  So, I made a $1 exacta box, 3, 6.  Since Netzeralda looked relatively dead in the water and it was only a field of five, I also threw in a $0.50 tri with Rock And Roll Star (1) and Beertent Baby (4) in the lower rung: 3,6/3,6/1,4.

Run Mama Beare Run ran to the lead as expected, with Beertent Baby right behind.  Rock and Roll Star was a few lengths back — farther back than expected compared to any recent race in which she wasn’t a complete dud.  Clontarf was a few lengths behind her, and Netzeralda was way out of it early.  Beertent Baby faded into the stretch.  Clontarf started to gain.  However, she was not the only one who started to gain: so did Rock And Roll Star.  Run Mama Beare Run faded a little late; this was not completely unexpected since she was coming off an eight month lay.  Beertent Baby faded a lot late.  However, Rock And Roll Star started from closer up than Clontarf, found the closing style that had evaded her for so many races, and won by daylight.  Clontarf was gaining on her come the very end, but it was too little too late.

Race 6: $10,000 claiming, three-year-olds OR four-year-olds and up who are N3L, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt

In this race, I liked Medalquest (1), Zippidy Do Hah (4), and Manila Warrior (6) to do well.  The first two had shown the class to hang with this field; Manila Warrior was very lightly raced compared to the rest, but looked ready to try something a bit harder than the $5,000 claiming company he trounced last out.  I $1 exacta boxed those three, 1,4,6.

The shape of the race was generally as expected, at least at the start.  Showbiz Is My Biz blew to the lead.  Zippidy Do Hah did get right up there with him to start.  Manila Warrior, who has run a speedy style or a closing one in the past, was near that speed early.  Medalquest got his place midpack, as usual, along with Wild Jaz who normally stays near the middle or back.  Leal Ridge, who normally gets caught so far back that his comment in my pace notes was “needs a drop to 5K”, was far back early.

The theme of the day was wrenches being thrown into my plans, and this race was no exception.  Showbiz Is My Biz, who had raced decently in sprints but gotten passed up in the routes he tried late last meet, was able to stay.  He wasn’t loose on the lead early, but he grabbed it, and doggedly fought off Zippidy Do Hah and Manila Warrior.  He didn’t fade down the stretch, though – he had more left coming down there than anyone, and drew away to a four-length win.  The horses I boxed finished 2, 3, and 4 behind him.  He was on the drop in class, having been trounced in a five furlong $29,000 state bred allowance behind Gita’s Mahal and Azeg two weeks ago, but before that he was a well-beaten third in two routes, both $12,500 conditioned claimers.  This may have been a slight class drop (though not a huge one, given the fuzziness of such differences in class at Hawthorne), but I just didn’t expect him to stay like that.

Race 7: Starter Optional Claiming ($18,000), four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, started for less than $10,000 claiming price in 2013-2014 OR $18,000 claiming price, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

It seems like only yesterday that it was some sort of secret that C’mon Feet was a good horse.  Last fall, she was entered in a first-level state-bred allowance off a $5,000 claiming win.  She had a string of close-call finishes in the Arlington meet, and then one clunker in an allowance early in the Hawthorne meet.  Her owners dropped her into a $5,000 N2L, she won by a few lengths, and that looked like the confidence booster she needed to get the job done in the allowance next out.  I was high on her, bet her at a morning line of 8-1 (and a final line of over 17-1), and she rewarded those of of us who liked her with a wire-to-wire, 8 1/2 length romp.  She won a $7,500 starter allowance by a neck two weeks later, went on break for the winter, and came back in this one.  Instead of being under the radar, she came into this race on a 3-race winning streak, with the 8-5 morning line to show for it.

I liked her here.  I will fully admit that I have become a fan of C’mon Feet (2), but she also had some of the best speed figures of the bunch, making her a legitimate choice (especially as an early speed).  She had never raced at five and a half furlongs, but her performances at six and six and a half suggested she’d handle it just fine, especially given her speedster style.  The only one I thought could possibly give her a run for her money was Dreymore (6), since not only did she have good speeds for the field, but she was 8-3-2-1 at five and a half furlongs.  So, I boxed 2, 6 in an exacta.

Turns out, one of my horses held up her end of the bargain, and the other did not.  C’mon Feet ran like she has in the last two races she has run since being claimed out of that $5,000 race last October: she sprung right out to the lead, and didn’t relinquish it.  This time, she crossed the wire 6 1/2 lengths ahead of her nearest competitor.  However, that nearest competitor was not Dreymore.  Dreymore got off extremely slowly, and never made up ground; she finished fifth, only passing two badly tiring rivals late.

An exacta with C’Mon Feet on top turned out to be the way to make money in the race, but not quite as I predicted.  The second place finisher was a long shot named Coyote Breeze.  Even though she was coming off the lay since November, she was on a pretty large class drop from what she had mainly been doing in most of 2013.  She had been racing almost exclusively in first-level allowances, mostly state-bred.  She was not doing very well in them.  However, I should not have given her the short shrift that I did here — almost all those races last year were routes, and in her last couple races she was hanging near enough the pace and then fading late.  Even though she was far behind C’mon Feet, she was another 4 3/4 lengths ahead of the third-place Somali Byrd.

Race 8: $17,500 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

This was a wide open maiden claimer.  I didn’t feel confident enough in any particular combination of horses to want to bet this as an exacta or a trifecta.  By the time this race rolled around I was a bit mentally tired from bouncing between the Hawthorne card and others, the exhilaration of Palace Malice’s Gulfstream Handicap win, and the frustration of Conquest Titan’s fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby.  I had to keep this one simple.  I liked Divine Delivery and Jake’s Humor, but the price was significantly better on Jake’s Humor, so I just went $2 on him across the board.

Jake’s Humor didn’t have such a good race.  He was near the lead early, but faded badly after the first furlong or two.  He crossed the wire sixth, beaten 10 1/2, ahead of only the two career maidens in the race.  Divine Delivery, the other horse I considered in this race, hit the board in third.  He didn’t have the best of starts, stumbling at the break, but got into the pack.  He got caught wide through the turn, but was able to maintain enough energy to stay ahead of the tiring horses in the pack.

Heavenly Goer was a huge question mark coming into this race.  He had hit the board in both of his two career races: but they were both at Fairmount all the way back in August and September of 2012, and he was well beaten in both.  He hadn’t raced since, though he had a few works on the tab.  I am hard pressed to bet on an elite horse coming off that long a lay.  I am even more hard pressed to be on a horse coming off a year and a half lay whose last race was an $8,000 maiden special at Fairmount.  However, he got to the lead, kept on trucking when Rose’s Hombre briefly got his head in front, and fired nicely down the stretch to win.  I was expecting a rusty race from him, but he just plain ran well.

Win one for him — and win two for Michelle Booker, who brought both him and Tasin Tom, the winner of the first, up from Fairmount.

So, that’s what happened at Hawthorne on Saturday.  I didn’t cash as many tickets as I’d like, but that’s horse racing, right?  Some days you’re right, some days you’re wrong, and some days you take some astute observations, try to get cute, and fail to make money on them.  All we can do is learn…and come back to the track soon, right?

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