I was at the races both Saturday and Sunday this weekend — Saturday involved a lot of actual horseplaying, and Sunday ended up being far more about yelling at the TV as my alternates in the Racing Dudes Challenge kept racking up points that I wasn’t getting. My best cashed ticket on Saturday was actually not on a Hawthorne race at all: I fluttered out a $1 exacta box on my three picks in the Ashland since the field was as big as it was, and took it down with the dead heat victory of Room Service and Rosalind. However, I placed plenty of tickets based on my Hawthorne picks as well, so let’s see how much I got right about those Saturday races!
Race 1: $15,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, five and a half furlongs on the dirt
In this race, I was interested in Shanghai Red (8) and Adobe Springs (7) outright. I looked at Herunsfornanny (4) and Dashing Derek (5) in the paddock, and they both looked quite good. Once he was saddled, Herunsfornanny was prancing around the paddock like he owned the place: not a bad thing to see in a first-time starter, that’s for sure. Dashing Derek also looked pretty good in the paddock himself — energetic, ready to race, but not blowing all his energy in the paddock. I thought Herunsfornanny looked a little better, so I put him in my $1 exacta box, 4, 7, 8.
Tail Gunner Carl (1) looked terrible in the paddock: he was very nervous, and tried to resist being saddled. They got a saddle on him and a jockey on his back, but that wasn’t the end of his travails. While loading horses into the gate, he acted up again, and threw his rider. He didn’t calm down, and was a gate scratch.
I thought Shanghai Red might break his maiden on class alone, and he ran exactly the way a 1-2 shot on a class drop should. He broke well, got clear of the stalking Dashing Derek, and pulled away down the stretch to win by 9 lengths. However, the second rung of the exacta proved to be just a bit trickier. Dashing Derek stalked a few back for much of the race, but couldn’t match Shanghai Red’s late energy. Aly’s Bluffing (3), at 52.7-1 the longest shot in the field, was near the back for most of the race, but saved ground along the rail coming into the stretch. He had just enough left to nose Dashing Derek out for the place — much to the chagrin of the group of people next to me who had been depending on Dashing Derek to hold the place.
Neither Adobe Springs nor Herunsfornanny had a particularly good time out. Adobe Springs chased a few lengths off early, but faded down the stretch to finish fourth beaten 12 1/2 lengths. Herunsfornanny, whose 6-1 morning line was bet down to a rather surprising 5-2 by post time, never really got going. He ran in midpack, was unable to muster any kind of closing run, and finished fifth beaten 18 1/2 lengths.
Race 2: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners since October 5, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.
With the combination of the five-horse field, the fact that there was one very chalky horse that I liked better than the rest (Star of Paradise (6)), and the pretty wide-open race next up, I decided to do a $1 Daily Double 6/all. I thought about if there were any horses I thought had absolutely no shot in the next race, but figured since all the will-pays for the daily doubles with Star of Paradise first were over $5, I didn’t want to be shut out if a longer shot prevailed out of the five-horse field in the next race.
Star of Paradise got up near the lead early, dueling with El Deputy. El Deputy looked on paper like a bounce risk, and I watched the race expecting him to fade at any minute. He surprised me. One of the dueling horses faded, and it wasn’t El Deputy. As the horses approached the wire, it was Star of Paradise who had just a bit less left. He lost some ground late, and El Deputy took the race by 3/4 length. Travelin Home stalked a couple lengths back from the dueling pair, in a good position to pounce if they faded, or if he had a lot left late. He didn’t fade, but he didn’t make a real dent in the lead; he was third beaten 2 lengths.
Grind (3), the other horse I was interested in coming into this race, never got going the way I hoped he would second off the lay. He got in a stalking position a few lengths off the lead — in last, but last among a five-horse field who could be covered by three or four lengths. However, he steadily lost ground late, and was not able to get out of last. He crossed the wire 8 3/4 lengths behind El Deputy.
Race 3: $10,000 claiming, three year olds and up, fillies and mares, N3L OR three years old, six and a half furlongs on the dirt
Knocked out of the Daily Double I had bet last race, I decided to do a $1 exacta box on the three horses I liked here. Two were ones I clearly liked pre-race: Abby’s Slew (2), and Link Card (3). I rounded that out with Supermane (5), since she looked really good in the paddock: aware, prancing, ready to go.
The race ended up as wide-open as I thought it was when I placed that Daily Double bet before race 2, and it was an exciting race to watch. When all was said and done, the five horses in the field crossed the wire within just 3 1/4 lengths of each other. Walkabout Molly (4), an early speed horse who has tended to fade badly of late, found better this time out. She got to the lead early, set fractions that were not particularly fast, and held on despite all four horses behind her making runs at her. Defiant Susie (6) and Link Card (3) both started a few lengths back. Defiant Susie kicked well down the stretch, and crossed the wire just a head behind Walkabout Molly. Link Card kicked a little later and didn’t get quite that close, but still got within 1 1/4 lengths come the wire. Supermane, second a length or so behind Walkabout Molly for most of the race, faded just a little down the stretch, but still checked in only 1 3/4 lengths behind the leader. Abby’s Slew didn’t run poorly, but she was definitely pace-compromised, and kept too far back early. Instead of the six or eight lengths back where she usually goes, she was more like a dozen back. Given the relatively slow fractions of this race, it left her with very little chance. She did kick down the stretch, and got within 3 1/4 lengths of the leader, but ran out of distance.
Race 4: $17,500 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt
If I ever become that annoying guy at the track who keeps ranting and raving about their missed opportunities over the years, everyone will be very sick of hearing me mutter about this race.
I liked Best Kiss Yet (4) and Baby Face Nelson (5) on paper. I was interested in checking out Lena Love (6) in the paddock, since she was the only horse in the field on the drop from maiden special to maiden claiming company. Even though it wasn’t elite maiden specials from which she was dropping (she had raced in a couple of state-bred MSW races at Indiana Downs), I am still a firm believer that there has to be some kind of talent there that the connections see to choose not to race them for a tag. It may well be my favourite handicapping angle.
However, I did not make it down to the paddock to look at the field, since I was up being interviewed for my program article. I didn’t want to halt the interview to go down to the paddock, make a bet, and come back. So, I just passed on the race.
You know how this is about to go, right? Best Kiss Yet got out to the lead, and held it most of the way. However, she started drifting out late, and was overtaken by about a length by a certain grey filly who had been stalking in second, a length or so back, the entire race. Who was that?
Lena Love. Of course.
I saw this happen, I saw the exacta payout, and I couldn’t help but grumble. To add insult to injury? One of the helpful souls in the press box while this happened points to a grey box sitting on a table near the televisions. Yup: I was about fifteen feet from a wagering machine the entire time.
This was not my finest moment.
Third place went to Lafanciulladelwest, the horse who I was afraid would beat my picks, if anyone did. She was on a class drop from $25,000 and $30,ooo maiden claimers at Fair Grounds, and had raced at slightly higher levels at Hawthorne last meet as well. She stalked three or four lengths back, but couldn’t rally enough to catch the top two. My other choice, Baby Face Nelson, finished fourth as the 4-5 favourite. Lena Love bumped her at the break, and Baby Face Nelson then settled about half a dozen lengths back. She swung out wide through the far turn and treid to make a run, but was only able to make up a couple of lengths, good enough for fourth.
Race 5: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N3L or non-winners since October 15, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt
In this race, I thought either Ten Little Pins (2) or Run Mama Beare Run (7) would set the fractions, and be able to hold on. If any horse from off the pace were to come, I thought it would be Golden Road, who was coming in on the ship from Fair Grounds, and on a class drop. I’d have boxed them if I bet, although I decided not to; I didn’t make it down to the paddock, and wasn’t absolutely itching to flutter money toward this one.
I was correct that Run Mama Beare Run (7) and Ten Little Pins (2) would be near the front early; they were up there along with Bacarella (6). Run Mama Beare Run set the fractions, and still led going into the stretch. The pace scenario turned out much as expected, with her setting relatively slow fractions throughout. Ten Little Pins stalked closely behind. However, despite the slow and slower fractions in the race, two were able to get themselves in front of the leading pair late. Golden Road (3) stalked the pace more closely than she had in her more recent races, hanging only three or four lengths back in the early going. She made her move through the far turn, engaged the leading pair, and steadily gained ground on the former leaders. I’ve Heard Rumors (4), very far back early, made a huge closing run and was gobbling up ground late. She was clearly gaining on Golden Road late, but ran out of track; she crossed the wire just 1 1/4 lengths behind. Run Mama Beare Run managed to hold on for third, 3 1/4 lengths back; she didn’t fade badly, but didn’t have anything to answer the charges of Golden Road or I’ve Heard Rumors. Ten Little Pins faded slightly more, which still ended up good for fourth beaten 3 3/4 lengths.
Race 6: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt
In this race, I liked speed horses Slew City Sin (3) and In Red’s Honor (6), and thought W W Distinction (2) could possibly pick up the pieces if the pace got a bit too fast. I did a $1 exacta box of these three horses.
As expected, In Red’s Honor and Slew City Sin both wanted the early speed. Slew City Sin got it, and In Red’s Honor stalked a few lengths back early, and steadily made up ground as the race progressed. Cosmic Brew (7) was also up there, although he faded back steadily and had nothing left for the stretch. W W Distinction was far back early, but sped up markedly through the latter half of the far turn, and came out wide around to challenge Slew City Sin and In Red’s Honor. He had enough to surpass Slew City Sin, but couldn’t get past In Red’s Honor, who had enough left down the stretch to pull away from Slew City Sin and win by 1 1/2 lengths.
When this meet started, I would have never expected to say In Red’s Honor would be winning, much less that I had made any sort of bet that would cash on him doing so. He was getting very well into Career Maiden™ territory, having been 16-0-3-2 going into an $8,000 maiden claimer at Hawthorne on March 16. However, he won that race, and followed it up with a win here. It looks like this five-year-old is rounding into a bit better form than what had him languishing in maiden $8,000 company all last meet.
Race 7: Maiden special weight ($26,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, five and a half furlongs on the dirt
In this race, I decided to put a $1 exacta box on my three pre-race picks: Bella Ann (4), Rushin’ Emerald (7) and Im Moneyinthebank (9). It was a big enough field, and I had been able to eliminate enough of the field, such that it was worth betting the three horses I liked: hoping that one of the longer shots I liked would finish on top, but still returning more than I paid for the ticket if the favourite Bella Ann took it.
Rushin’ Emerald and Im Moneyinthebank got up front early and kicked off a speed duel; Bella Ann, Easy Emma, and briefly Sequins Starlet stalked just off their pace. Sequins Starlet faded out of contention fairly quickly, and ended up a distant last. Easy Emma, the likely chalky horse who I went against due to her failure as a favourite last out in easier maiden claiming company, also lost some ground down the stretch. However, Bella Ann was able to capitalize on the honest fractions that the dueling horses up front were setting. She closed up most of the ground between her and the leaders through the far turn, and won going away. Rushin’ Emerald checked in best of the rest, 4 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Im Moneyinthebank, the first time starter and the other one in that speed duel, finished a length behind Rushin’ Emerald, in third.
I decided against using Lady Poet, and that decision worked out well for me. She went off as the longest shot in the field, and ran about like it. Her start was a bit awkward, she gained the rail about ten lengths back, but never found anything to make a move. She finished sixth, beaten 14 1/4 lengths.
Race 8: Allowance optional claiming ($25,000), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, turf, or state-bred allowance OR N3L OR $25,000 claiming price, six furlongs on the dirt
Here, I liked the entry of Domain’s Rap (1) and Royalrap (1A), Ifoundmy Mojo (6), and Helooksthepart (7). Domain’s Rap was looking washy in the paddock, which was a little disconcerting. I considered using Browneyed Bachelor (2) instead, but decided that I’d rather risk it with Domain’s Rap, given his versatility of style — something Browneyed Bachelor hasn’t really shown. I did a $1 exacta box, 1,6,7. I opted to stay away from Rushin’ Rubietta, the other one I had been considering pre-race; I decided she was probably overmatched here.
Helooksthepart, the longest shot on the morning line out of the three interests I bet, actually went off as the 2.2-1 favourite. He stalked a few lengths behind the pace being set by Phish Fan (4) and Royalrap. Royalrap faded a bit, but Phish Fan stayed up into the stretch. His lead was diminishing, though; Helooksthepart looked the part of a successful stalker, and overtook Phish Fan after inching up on him through the far turn. It looked a bit unclear whether he would prevail, but just past the sixteenth pole, he found his gear and popped ahead, crossing the wire two lengths in front. Phish Fan, the Louisiana shipper, held for second. Third went to Browneyed Bachelor, a horse who prefers to stalk closer to the lead but had a poor start. He made up enough ground to finish only 4 1/2 lengths behind Helooksthepart.
My choices other than Helooksthepart didn’t do great. Royalrap, part of the entry, did manage to hold on for fourth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. Domain’s Rap, his entrymate (and the one I thought to be the better horse, going in), told his tale in the paddock. He was far back early, and stayed far back; he never fired enough to become a factor. Ifoundmy Mojo, similarly, just did not fire. He started about ten back and then slightly improved his position, but never actually threatened to hit the board.
There is an bit of trivia that is not related to this race’s outcome, but interesting nonetheless. Rushin’ Rubietta, last place in this race, is the older full sister of Rushin’ Emerald, who finished second in Race 7. They are both Iowa-breds, by Rushin’ to Altar out of the Rubiano mare Rubietta. I’m sure this has happened before, but it is the first time I have noticed full siblings on a race card on the same day.
Race 9: Allowance ($29,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winnders of $8,800 once OR non-winners of a state-bred race other than a maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, six furlongs on the dirt
In this race, I thought Easy Solution (11) was a vulnerable favourite. I didn’t think he’d be able to rate, and I didn’t think he’d be able to get the lead from the 11 gate. I liked Sweep E Prado (1) and Even Fever (9) because of what they had shown coming off the pace, and had I’m Old School (3) as a rather tepid pick if speed held up. In the paddock, Sweep E Prado looked rather nervous; I have seen him in the paddock enough to know that such behaviour was anomalous. However, that underlined what is obviously still a vulnerability in my handicapping: I bet him anyway, because I’m a fan. I did a $1 exacta box of my choices, 1, 3, 9.
I shouldn’t have underestimated Easy Solution. He got up to the lead straight out, fought with Pale Hose (2) for a while, and then shook clear as Pale Hose faded. Whether Easy Solution can rate ended up being an irrelevant question — he wired the field despite his outside gate, so he didn’t need to rate. Even Fever, one of the two real closers in the field (and a 19-1 bomb at post time!), ran well despite bumping into El Ginger (8) at the start. He made a move earlier than usual, and even though he was 5 3/4 lengths behind Easy Solution come the end of the race, he was still 3 1/4 lengths clear of the rest of the field. Sweep E Prado didn’t run as good a race as I was hoping to see, but it wasn’t a complete debacle. He was as usual a bit slow coming out of the gate. He didn’t fire and gain huge ground on the leader, but he managed to run strongly enough down the stretch to get up for the show, since he was at least not losing significant ground to Easy Solution. He was nine lengths behind the winner, but still three more lengths clear of the rest of the pack. I’m Old School stalked Easy Solution and Pale Hose from a few lengths off early, but faded down the stretch; he finished fourth, beaten 12 lengths.