spring has…sprung?

It’s officially spring, though it’s still a little windy, a little snowy…therefore, just right for March in Chicago.  Blinkers Off is back at Hawthorne today, with a few thoughts on the eight-race card.

Race 1: $12,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt

We kick off the day with the only route race on the card.  I do expect Thunderhawk (8), Community Property (5), and Archybdancing (2) to get near the lead early, with Dundalk Dancer (1) a bit behind.  The other four horses in the field all frequently get half a dozen, a dozen lengths back: Joy to the King (3), Expensive Candy (4), W W Distinction (6), and Travel Required (7).  This race is pretty wide open on paper.

The only one coming into this race off a win is Thunderhawk, who made an absolute joke of an otherwise awful $8,000 maiden claiming field last out, on March 2.  However, the last time he fired a speed anywhere near what he did in that race, he regressed quite a bit.  Combining that with the fact that this field (like almost any field in the history of horse racing) is tougher than the field of that last race, that 3-1 morning line is not something I’d touch with a ten foot pole.  The one thing that I do like about him, and why I would consider him in an exotic or a multirace, is that he’s actually had some good races at the 1 1/16 mile distance.  His win was at 1 mile 70 yards, but he has hit the board three times at this distance, which is more than most of the field can say.

I like Archybdancing quite a bit.  Even though he got distanced in his last start, he was first off the winter lay, and competing against three-and-up state-bred allowance company.  He cuts back to a more fitting class here.  Even though he is the only three year old in the field, he has some sharp recent works, and has had some races that would contend with this field, even as a two-year-old.  Finally, Emmanuel Cosme, who has been very hot this meet, has the mount.  I’m not sleeping on him.

Among the closers, I like Travel Required.  This is his second race off the winter lay; last out he was sixth beaten 8 1/2 in a state-bred allowance.  He is dropping in class here, and even though he’s stretching out in distance, his maiden win was at 1 mile 70 yards.  He looks the most likely to catch up with the speedballs here.

Race 2: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt

The only horse in this field who really likes the early lead a lot is Fishing Line (2).  If he can get it, and he doesn’t regress from his last start, he could take that inside place all the way home.  The only horse inside of him is C C And Moonlight (1), who can’t run on dirt to save his life.  If Fishing Line wants that rail, he gets that rail.

From further back, Lakota Wolf (5) and Windy City Leal (7) look like the biggest threats.  Lakota Wolf is in his second race at this level after dropping from $10,000 N2L, and has shown better speed than anyone in the field.  Windy City Leal has hit the board five times at this distance, and was second beaten only 1 1/2 lengths at this distance and level on March 5.  Macho Matt (8) is one I would want to use if this race were on the synthetic, since his form at Turfway would be enough to hang with this field?  Dirt, though?  He doesn’t run well on the dirt.

Race 3: Allowance ($31,000), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 twice OR two state-bred races other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N3L, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the dirt

This should be a fun race to watch, though maybe not the most exciting race betting-wise given that there are only six betting interests.  (There is a coupled entry, Radiant Day (1) and Cammack (1A).)  Expect Georgie My Boy (5) and Roarin Missile (6) to bolt right to the lead, with Lassell (6), and Solar Flair (3) stalking behind.  Cammack (1A) should be in the middle, with Radiant Day (1) and Purging The Stone (2) trying to close if that early speed falls apart.

Among the early speed, Roarin Missile looks tough, assuming he comes in here fresh off the winter lay.  He has been working regularly, so that may well be the case.  He has been running in more starters and claimers than allowance races, but likes the six furlong distance, is fast enough to hang with this field, and can either win from on early speed or rate from just off the pace. Lassell looks to improve and his second time out after the winter layoff, and should at least hit the board here.  I am not sure he shows what he needs to win, but keying him in second or using him for second and third would be a smart move.

Among the closers, Radiant Day looks like the smart, albeit chalky, choice.  Last out, in an IL Allowance at this level on March 2, he got too far back early and could only close for third, behind Gita’s Mahal and Lassell.  Look for him to be a little fresher, and be able to run down the speedsters late.  He is a consistent horse; he has not missed the board in his last seven starts.  His speeds stack up well against most of the field, and he should be a factor here.

Race 4: Maiden Special Weight ($27,000), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the dirt

This race is open to three-year-olds and up, but the entire field consists of three-year-olds.  Three of the horses are first-time starters: Lease The Castle (2), Valiant Point (3), and Bangthedrumsallday (9).  The outside post isn’t great for Bangthedrumsallday, but he fired a four-furlong bullet in 47 flat on March 6, with a maintenance five-furlong work since.  He is also running for trainer Larry Rivelli with jockey Timothy Thornton: a combination that is 9-4-1-1 at Hawthorne this meet.  Susan’s Rap (4), in her third start, also interests me here.  Neither of her races last meet were anything to write home about, but he has been working extremely sharply leading up to this race, and adds blinkers for the first time this race.  Furthermore, the combination of trainer Scott Becker and jockey Rafael Hernandez is 10-4-1-1 this meet.  He may graduate — and if the 10-1 morning line is any indication, he may do so at a nice price.

Race 5: Allowance ($28,000), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,000 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, six furlongs on the dirt

This is a wide-open allowance race with a field of six, after the scratch of longshot Dukette’s Flame.  Sunset Illusion (6) will try to bolt to the lead, with A Shot Away (4) and Coyote Breeze (2) stalking close behind.  Miss Lucky (6) and Seattle Train (3) tend to take up the middle, and Cassidilly (1) will attempt to close from farther back.

A Shot Away (4) is the 9-5 morning line favourite.  She is in her first race coming in off the winter lay, and tends to race decently though not her best first race off a few month lay.  That should still be enough to at least hit the board, especially given how reliable she is at the distance (30-5-10-9 lifetime).  If I box, she’s going in there.

Speaking of horses consistent at the distance, I am very interested to see how Cassidilly does here.  Career, she is 11-4-5-2 at the six furlong distance.  She is jumping up in class from $5,000 claimers up to here, but has won her last two, and is 3-2-0 in her last five races.  Furthermore, she has put up a few recent speeds that are competitive with this bunch, and stands to improve after a slower trip last time out.  She’s the only real closer in the field, and if the speed falls apart at all, she could get up there and surprise at a nice price.

Seattle Train has been working very well at Fairmount, but I’m afraid that looks more like her being a big fish in a small pond than anything else.  Combine that with the fact that she generally races very flat first off the lay, and she looks like a pretty easy toss despite the nice works (a handicapping angle I generally like).

Race 6: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners since September 23, six and a half furlongs on the dirt

There isn’t much to like about this race.  It looks pretty wide open for the worst possible reason: no one looks particularly good enough to win it.

If the layoff freshened Commando Kat, he may be able to do something here.  He is better on the all-weather than he is on the dirt, but did show one decent start on the Hawthorne dirt at this distance last meet, finishing second beaten 3/4 length in a $6,250 conditioned claimer.  He has been working decently and frequently, which is more than I can say about most of this field.

Zavill is the morning-line 9-5 favourite, and probably the fastest horse in the field.  However, he is coming off an extremely long lay; his last race was at Keeneland on October 11 of last year.  He only has one published work since then, a relatively slow one at Fairmount on March 7.  If he comes off the layoff fresh, he could be a contender here, though his form is better on the Arlington synthetic than it is here.

Race 7: $4,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of two races in 2013-14 OR non-winners of a race since May 23, 2014, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

There are a lot of horses in this race who like to be right up or on the early speed.  If any of them manage to hold on and win this race, it will probably be Foxie’s Sly Won (1).  The inside post will be great for her, and she is into this race on an enormous class drop.  Last meet at Hawthorne she was racing state-bred allowances, and over the winter she raced twice at Oaklawn, at $12,500 and $7,500 levels.  The easier field in this $4,000 beaten claimer may be just what she needs to get on track.  If Hallie Ruth (2) comes off the layoff anywhere near the form she had last meet, she should be a contender here as well.  She hit the board in all five of her attempts at Hawthorne last meet, and it looks like the shorter distance will help her out here.  She is also just a faster horse than most of the rest of this field.  At an 8-1 morning line, she could also give a nice price if she gets into this race fresh, ready, and able to catch the leaders from a nice stalking spot.

If the speed up front really falls apart, look to Toast With Honey (5) to pick up the pieces.  She ran second on March 9 in her first start off of a five-month lay, and even though that was a stalking trip, she won that previous race in October from a closing place.  Given all the early speed in this race, it may be wise to run her from a closing position again; if she gets that kind of trip, she could win today.

Race 8: $8,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, six and a half furlongs on the dirt

For an $8,000 maiden claimer, there are surprisingly few horses who are Career Maidens™ — just two, the seventeen-race maiden Giacoslew (2) and the thirty-five race maiden Unchartedterritory (6).

That said, there are only three out of the field of eleven who look the least bit appealing.  Leathers Slappin (8) is interesting because he’s on a massive class drop.  He has been running $25,000 and $12,500 maiden claimers at Gulfstream, and now he’s dropping into an $8,000 maiden claimer at Hawthorne.  His previous races have been between 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 furlongs, so this distance fits right in.  He hit the board in two out of his four attempts on dirt, and two out of the three attempts at the $12,500 level.  If he handled the ship well, this race could be easy for him.  Steel Vice (9) is interesting for a similar reason.  He did race at Hawthorne last fall at higher levels, shipped to Oaklawn for the winter, and was soundly throttled in two route races there at $30,000 and $15,000 levels.  He was 4th beaten only 2 3/4 lengths at this level last out at five furlongs, just having run out of room to close.  He may improve here second off the ship from Arkansas.

Finally, there is one of the locals that looks decent here, Noble Leader (7).  He is in his second race off the winter layoff here, and has hit the board at this level in his last two times out.  He tends to run a deeper closing style, but is faster than almost everyone in the field, so he could get up there if Leathers Slappin ends up getting into a duel with another horse who’s trying the lead (possibly Jake’s Humor (4), Walker My Boy (1), or Giacoslew (2).)

That’s it for the preview of Hawthorne today; it’s just about time to meander toward the paddock.  Good luck to everyone!

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