Jim Vs….Blinkers Off!

Usually I don’t go to Hawthorne on Wednesday, due to a pesky little thing called “a day job that has nothing to do with horse racing”.  However, I’m taking a few days off this week, and a Wednesday off of work sounded like the perfect opportunity to take a crack at playing Jim Vs.!  For those who don’t spend way too much of their free time at Hawthorne (and way too much of their less-than-free time streaming Hawthorne races on Horse Races Now while they work…), on Wednesdays they let a fan make three picks in each of the races, and put our top picks up against Jim Miller, the track handicapper at Hawthorne.  The contestant gets to go on air to make their picks, and then a friendly little handicapping competition plays out.  Given the contest format, I’m going to try a different format for presenting my picks here; let me know how you like it!

So, ahead are my picks that I’m going to take against Jim — and if you’re at the track or able to fire up your phone or ADW account, tune into the Hawthorne feed at 1:00 pm Central today to hear us chat horses live on air!

Race 1: $17,500 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt

Selections:  Sgt. Green (3), Divine Delivery (1), Holy Bomber (6).

Sgt. Green (3):  This three-year-old comes into this race second off the drop from IL-bred maiden special weight to $17,500 maiden claiming, and in his second attempt at a route race.  He is likely to try and get the early speed here, and there isn’t much in this field who can get up there and stay up there with him for a mile and seventy yards if he does.  He also had a decent run against much better company his first time out, fifth beaten only 4 1/2 lengths his first time out in a state-bred MSW behind Sweep E Prado and Iker.  He’s coming off of a good work on March 20, five furlongs in 1:01 flat, and looks ready to take this field on.

Divine Delivery (1):  This three-year-old is also second off the drop from maiden special weight company to claiming.  His last out, in a state-bred $17,500 claimer, he finished third beaten 4 3/4 after getting caught wide on the turn; he was unable to equal the surprise run of Heavenly Goer, a Fairmount shipper who ran a huge race first off a year and a half lay.  He has never been beaten by double-digit lengths — the only horse in the field who can say that.  He has attempted early speed in a few of these races; given how good the rail has been at Hawthorne this meet, this may be a good opportunity to try that again.

Holy Bomber (6):  This four-year-old Iowa-bred is entering his second race off a long lay, and his second for the Chris Dorris barn.  Emmanuel Cosme, 51-12-5-9 this meet, has the mount.  In his last start, he tried to get up near the lead, but was unable to sustain it and faded back.  He is unlikely to be able to hang with Sgt. Green or Divine Delivery, but assuming he comes into this second race off the layoff a bit more accustomed to being on the track, he could be in a good position to hit the board.

Race 2: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Ib’s Mystery (1), Lady’s Day Off (3), Reba’s Set (6)

Ib’s Mystery (1):  Her last time out, a race at this distance and level on March 4, wasn’t great; however, Ib’s Mystery looks set to improve.  This is her second race off the winter lay, and her second attempt against winners.  She’s coming off a bullet four furlong work in 48.2 on March 20th.  Heidi Rose has the mount; not only is she doing well this meet, but the seven-pound bug means she carries only 111 pounds: lowest in the field, and a full 11 pounds less than the highweight, Reba’s Set.  If anyone is going to beat Lewis Meadow (the Rivelli/Thornton chalkster), it’s her.

Lady’s Day Off (3):  This is her second race off the winter layoff, and her first time dropping in for a tag.  She won a slow six furlong IL-bred maiden special weight last meet by a diminishing three-quarters of a length, but has been demolished in allowance company over muddy or sloppy tracks the last two times out.  Against easier company on a better track, she’s likely to get a better trip at a nice price.

Reba’s Set (6):  This is her second race off a five-month lay; she won a state-bred $17,500 maiden claimer last time out.  What makes her attractive, especially for boxes, is that she is the only horse who has won a race as anything but the wire-to-wire speed.  In her maiden win, she stalked from a few lengths back, and pulled ahead coming down the stretch.  Her ability to rate should help here.  Being the 122 pound highweight won’t help, but she should be able to pull ahead of tiring or dejected speed horses for at least a share.

Race 3: Allowance Optional Claiming ($50,000), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 three times other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state bred OR N4L OR non-winners in 2014 OR three years old, six furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Hogy (4), Four Left Feet (1), River Bear (5)

Hogy (4):  Hogy makes his first start since his eighth-place finish in the Shadwell “Turf” “Mile” last October.  He cuts back to six furlongs here, a distance at which he has never missed the board on the main track.  He has been working well through the winter at Oaklawn, and shipping is old hat to him.  He should have more than enough in the tank to stalk the pace (likely set by Chatfield Road, or maybe Calmer Than You), and get ahead.  He’s going to be chalk, but as the fastest and classiest horse in the field, he’s not going to be beaten.  I may as well join him.

Four Left Feet (1):  This is Four Left Feet’s first start since his run in the Forego at Turfway in January.  Before that, he came in second in two races at Hawthorne last meet: the Lightning Jet at this distance, and an Allowance Optional Claimer at six and a half furlongs.  He’s had a bit of second-itis over the last year (going 10-0-4-2 since the beginning of 2013), but looks a good choice to come in second here since Chatfield Road won’t be able to lug home on the rail like he did last out.

River Bear (5): River Bear makes his first start since the Texas Zing at Fairmount last September.  He has been firing bullet works like it’s his job, though, so he’s likely coming in fit and ready.  He tends to come from farther back in the pack than Hogy does, which won’t help him given that there’s not a ton of early speed in this race, but assuming he’s fit from his layoff it should be plenty to get him up for a share.

Race 4:  $12,500 claiming, three-year-olds or four-year-olds and up who are N3L, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt

Selections:  Manila Warrior (1), Legal Deed (3), Medalquest (2)

Manila Warrior (1):  There is not a ton of early speed in this race — basically, just Manila Warrior and Martyrforthecause.  Martyrforthecause is primed to bounce hard after his anomalously good last race, leaving Manila Warrior in the best position to take the inside and run it all the way home.  He has never missed the board in a race near this distance in the dirt, and is making his second start for the Clay Brinson barn, who claimed him on February 21st.

Legal Deed (3): Legal Deed tends to come from off the pace.  He can’t get too far back, given that there’s not a plethora of early speed here, but if Perez keeps him only a handful of lengths back early, he’s fast enough to catch anyone in this field, assuming he’s in here fit.  This is his first race back from the winter layoff; there aren’t a lot of published works, but they are at Fairmount — where they don’t seem to be publishing a lot of works lately anyway.  His PPs at this distance suggest giving him the benefit of the doubt here.

Medalquest (2): Medalquest is basically a third pick because I had to have a third pick.  Manila Warrior and Legal Deed are the only horses I really like here; Medalquest just has the least red flags.  It’s his second race dropping from tougher company, and he’s on a bit more rest than he had for his last out (which was on just six days’ rest).  Nothing suggests he’ll run spectactularly, but the recent drop in class means this may be a decent spot for him.

Race 5:  $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of 2 since September 26 or N4L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Thundering Hoofs (1), Rock Hard Legacy (3), Queen Of Heat (8)

Thundering Hoofs (1):  Thundering Hoofs comes in second off the lay, and on a class drop from mostly allowance races.  He may not be the same horse she was a year ago, but even the horse she was last meet has a good chance to get up and wire this relatively weak company.  She has a great shot to get up on the lead, and even if she’s just a bit back early, she’s shown some ability to rate as well.

Rock Hard Legacy (3): She’s another early speed horse — but, in this race, they pretty much all are.  She finished third beaten 5 her last time out, at this level and distance in the mud.  Rock Hard Legacy won’t likely get the rail here, but has seen some success stalking just off — a spot she can get early from the three-gate.  She is from the barn of Joel Berndt, which has been seeing quite a bit of success this season, and Timothy Thornton has the mount; these connections bode well for her.

Queen Of Heat (8):  Queen Of Heat drew the outside post here, but has been able to get up in time from an outer gate before.  She will need to show more than she did in her last few races, but she changes back to a higher-percentage jockey in Rafael Hernandez, who rode her just once last meet in tougher company.  That may help her here.

Race 6: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of 2 since September 26 or N4L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

Selections:  Lil Susie Too (4), Sing Kitty Sing (1), Da Nella (7)

Lil Susie Too (4):  This is her first race off the lay, but she has on several occasions in her career been able to win first off a few minth lay.  She faces a bit tougher company here than what she had been seeing at Beulah and Fairmount, but is 11-5-1-1 at this distance on the main track in her career.  She also had a couple of good runs in open company at Fairmount last year.  If she can break from the 4 gat and get up near or ahead of Sing Kitty Sing and Friendly’s Rap early, she could come in at a nice price.

Sing Kitty Sing (1): Sing Kitty Sing is the 3-1 morning line favourite, and it’s easy to see why.  She’s an early speed horse, she has the inside gate, and she’s coming off a good race last time where she fought for the early speed, stayed on after the other horse up with her faded, and just got caught late by Cassidilly.  Sing Kitty Sing is second off the winter layoff today, and in her second race after a class drop from $10,000 and $12,500 claiming company.  She’ll be tough here.

Da Nella (7):  Da Nella bolts fast and hard early; expect her to do so yet again here.  The only question is whether she will be able to sustain enough of a run late, or tire out.  Even if she tires, though, she often has just enough left in the tank to prevail for a share.

Race 7: Allowance ($29,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,800 once OR non-winners of a state-bred race other than maiden, claiming or starter OR N2L

Selections: My Moment (1), Lakotadreamcatcher (10), I O Cashel (8)

My Moment (1):  My Moment is making her fifth career start, and her first at a route distance.  It’s her second race off the winter lay; last out she got caught wide and finished nowhere near the leaders, but she has putt up some good works since then.  This is her first attempt against tougher and older horses here, but with the inside post, the lighter impost, and the warm-up race a few weeks ago, she could run big here if she likes the distance.

Lakotadreamcatcher (10):  Lakotadreamcatcher makes her return here after her surprising maiden-breaking win in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante last December.  She has put up a few works since then — none exceedingly fast, but none alarmingly slow, either.  Her racing history is a little goofy, but a lot of her early races can be tossed because she started on the turf and synthetic — it wasn’t until later last Hawthorne meet that it came out that she’s a dirt runner.  If she runs like she did in her last race, she has a great chance to close in on this field.  Unlike in the Debutante she’s not the only one here who comes in off the pace (Tapnfire and Lewderhoo can, as well), but if she comes in fit off this lay, she can contend.

I O Cashel (8): I O Cashel comes into her second race off the winter layoff here.  She is an early speed horse, so the outside gate isn’t the best for her, but she absolutely loves these shorter route races on the main track, never having missed the board between a mile and a mile and a sixteenth on the main.  The Reavis barn, who claimed her for $10,000 last November, has been racing her in allowance company in her last two starts; she has been third both times.  Her works are good, she likes the distance, she had a shot to get back into the racing mindset in the March 5th race — look for her to race well here.

Race 8: $4,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of 2 in 2013-14 OR non-winners of 1 since May 26, five and a half furlongs on the dirt.

Selections: Come On Man (1), No Bull Jess (8), Todi Bee (2)

Come On Man (1): Come On Man has the inside gate here in his second race after being claimed for $4,000 two starts ago.  He’s a little faster and a little more sonsistent than most of the field.  His last out wasn’t particularly great, but it was the first for his new barn.  He changes jockeys to Emmanuel Cosme today; if he’s able to get on or near the lead from that inside gate, and can get back to even the form he showed two races ago, he should improve significantly.

No Bull Jess (8):  No Bull Jess has been working pretty well at Fairmount; even though he is coming into his first race off the winter lay, his works indicate he should be ready to race.  He comes here after racing mostly in $5,000 conditioned claimers at Hawthorne last meet, and was often able to prevail for a share — and prevailed for a win once at $6,250.  He doesn’t need to be right on the lead immediately, which should help him a bit given that he breaks from the 8 gate.

Todi Bee (2):  Todi Bee is another early speed horse here.  He has two decent starts in sprints this meet, after ending last meet with a pretty terrible attempt at a route race.  He has gotten the early lead in both starts this meet; he faded a bit late in each, but the first (this distance) was his first off the winter lay, and the last race was in a tougher bunch, and half a furlong longer.  This should be a better distance for him, against a bit easier company.

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