closing day at Hawthorne

It feels like the spring meet at Hawthorne just started, but feelings can be deceiving.  Today is the last day of the meet!  I got to the track bright and early to delve through the PPs and make heads or tails of today’s ten-race card.  Without further ado: here are my thoughts on Hawthorne today.

Race 1: $5,000 waiver claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt

This race features eight fillies and mares who all want to be on or near the early lead.  Someone who liked to come from off the pace here would have a great time, but unless one of the trainers decides to do something different (which may not be a terrible idea, since there’s a good shot that at least some of these N2Ls haven’t found their best running style…), this race demands either the speed of the speed being able to hold on, or someone who can rate at least a little bit.  Calypsos Vengeance (6), shipping up here from higher-priced claimers at the Fair Grounds, broke her maiden at Hawthorne last meet in a state-bred maiden $15,000, in which she did come from a few lengths off the pace in her first start on the dirt, and her only start here.  She seems to handle the dirt a big better than the turf or all-weather she has tried in the past, and should appreciate the surface and the class drop.  Katherine’s Luck (6) comes into this race first off a five-month lay, but has a few decent showings on the Hawthorne worktab leading up to this race.  She had some good races last fall at the $5,000 and $4,000 levels at ThistleDown last fall, and her pace figures suggest she could be the speed of the speed here.  If Katherine’s Luck is not the early speed-of-the-speed, Lady Scruffy (5) probably will be.  She is another one in here on a class drop, having faltered in higher claiming and allowance optional claiming races this meet.  She should be near the front early, and if she can last for six furlongs against this weaker company, she has a shot.

Race 2:  $20,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, five furlongs on the turf

There’s a decent amount of early speed in this race, but not enough that it’s going to fall apart in five furlongs.  The pace here should favour either early speed or someone sitting fairly close off of it; a deep closer is probably not going to take this one.  With that the case, Fleet Encounter (1) looks like she’s in just the right spot here, assuming she comes in fresh off the lay.  He saw a lot of success in $5,000 starters last summer on the Arlington turf, but has been on the shelf since October of last year.  However, his speed figures on turf are among the best of the bunch, and he’s undefeated on turf (3-3-0-0) as well as at five furlongs (4-4-0-0).  Frabster (6) is another horse coming in off a lay since October, but finished a close second first back from a yearlong lay last August, so she has shown she can come back sharp.  This is her first shot on the turf, but is dropping in here from some successful runs against tougher company in state-bred allowance races on the dirt and the synthetic.  She likes the early speed, but can rate from just off it early if he has to.  Distant Mesa (2) should be able to get the inside speed, since she comes in her only outside of Fleet Encounter, who comes from off the pace.  She is dropping into here from allowance company on the dirt, but is 2-1-0-1 on the turf in her lifetime, against fields of approximately this level.  She is also coming in here off a bullet work on April 12.  If Distant Mesa is anywhere near her 8-1 morning line come post time, that’s a great price.

Race 3:  $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt

This race has almost no early pace at all.  In Red’s Honor (1) likes getting on or near the lead, Tonight At Noon (2) does his best work from a few lengths off, and the rest of the field tends to come in from a few suburbs over to try for a share late.  In Red’s Honor is the 4-5 morning line favourite, and there’s quite a good reason for that.  He’s moving up a bit in class, from $5,000 N2L to $5,000 N3L, but this could not be a more perfect field for him to contend against.  He’s likely to get lone speed, and he has won his last two races — suggesting the light has finally come on with him.  He has enough speed to take this field from wire to wire, and betting-wise I’ll probably use him as a single in a multi-race wager, or a top rung in an exacta, just to try and get a little value out of this.  Tonight At Noon has a pace advantage here, being the only other horse in the field who doesn’t come from double-digit lengths off the lead on a regular basis.  He is on a class drop here, last having raced in a $7,500 conditioned claimer at Oaklawn in February.  He’ll like the class relief here.  Furthermore, his connections are hard to beat: Roger Brueggemann and Chris Emigh.  Dover Beach (4) is the best among the closers here, and the most likely to swing in for a share.  He comes in here second off the lay, Tim Thornton rides, and he fires a little more consistently than the other horses here.

Race 4: $8,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt

This is a wide-open lower-level maiden claimer.  Fist Full (9) is probably the best of the bunch, though the bunch is rather weak.  He has twelve starts, which is a point against, but his only on-board finishes have been in his last three, all against somewhat tougher company; this suggests the light may have come on the four-year-old gelding’s head, and this class drop may be just what he needs to graduate.  Galway Shore (2), who breaks from the 1 gate, has a great chance at being inside speed.  He carried it almost all the way there two weeks ago, when he was just nipped late by Walker My Boy and Ballistic Tim, but dials back from 1 1/16 miles to 1 mile 70 yards here.  If he reproduces that effort, he could come in at a bomb of a price.  Ballistic Tim (7) is a Career Maiden; the five-year-old gelding is 26-0-2-6 lifetime.  He came very close two weeks ago, finishing second by just a head to Walker My Boy on April 13.  I am not interested in him to win, given his failure to do so twenty-six times (as well as the fact that this isn’t even his first run in maiden $8,000 company), but would not leave him off lower rungs of exactas and trifectas, given that he has hit the board in his last three starts.

Race 5: $20,000 claiming , three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N2L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

This is another race with a ton of early speed.  The five outside horses all like to get on the early speed, and have all shown no ability to rate at all from off the pace.  Among those speedballs, the most likely to actually get that early lead and carry it for five and a half furlongs is Betterlegsonatable (7).  Her early pace figures are the best of the bunch, and she consistently puts up speeds that can take this crowd.  She comes in here off a long lay, since last August, but did win his first race off a winter lay last year, and has been working well.  She also drops in class here, from $50,000 claimers at Arlington.  Among the horses who can come in off the pace, Chapparra (1) has the best chance to get there, or at least hit the board.  She drops in here from being in over his head in a $30,000 claimer on the Keeneland poly, and the out before that she came in third beaten only a head at this distance at Hawthorne, behind Supersambdancing and Lost Friend.  El Jetta (5) interests me here because this is her first time running for a tag.  This may be a little tougher than the maiden special and allowance fields she faced at ThistleDown in her three career starts, but she has never missed the board.  She has also shown nice early pace in her previous starts, a must for this race.  El Jetta is coming off a decent five furlong work here, and has been working regularly through the spring.  If she comes in here fresh off the lay, she could kick off her four-year-old season as a real contender here.

Race 6: $5,000 waiver claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of 2 races since October 27 OR N4L, five furlongs on the dirt

There’s a decent amount of early speed here.  No one in this field likes to come from way back, but there are a surprising number of horses who can rate here, given that this is a $5,000 claimer.  Scotchirish (1) can be early speed, or stalk just off it early.  He is second off the winter layoff here, and returns at a similar level.  Last meet, however, he was able to come in fourth beaten four lengths in a $29,000 N1X allowance race, and then finished third in a starter the next time out.  He cuts back to five furlongs from somewhat longer sprints here, and the cut in distance should benefit him.  Black Patch (6) is a machine at this distance, 18-8-5-2 lifetime.  He’s yet another speed horse, but has been able to win if he’s at least close to the pace early, which is a good ace in the hole since he has the 6 gate.  He finished second at this distance last time out, 3 1/2 lengths behind Win Tucker, after having the lead and just fading at the end.  HE has had three weeks to rebound from that effort, and if he doesn’t bounce hard from that, he’ll be tough here.  Ravin About Riv (2) cuts down from slightly longer sprints here, but may have more than enough speed to wire this crowd.  He hasn’t shown much ability to rate, but if inside speed is any good, he will be difficult to defeat in this spot.  He is coming off a clear win at a similar level ($5,000, non-winners of $4,000 since August 12) last time out, two weeks ago.

Race 7: $30,000 allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, turf, or state-bred allowance OR N3L OR $30,000 claiming price, six furlongs on the dirt

This is a pretty solid allowance race.  There’s a decent amount of early speed, but not so much that any given style is completely out of the running.  Roarin Missile (2) looks like he is in a good place here.  He comes here off a second-place finish to Right Now Richie in a state-bred allowance on April 12, and even though he moves up to open company here, he has enough early pace to get near the lead, and is truly a six-furlong specialist.  The other speed horse who looks like a good contender here is Phish Fan (4).  He comes in here off a second-place finish last out, and won a $46,000 N1X allowance at Fair Grounds over the winter.  He has enough speed to be a factor here, and repeatedly contends in allowance-level sprints.  If the early pace gets too quick, Ifoundmy Mojo (7) can be the one to pick up the pieces.  He ran a more stalking style earlier in his career, but has shifted to running as a deep closer since late last fall.  He did not fire his last time out, but in the race before that, closed strongly to finish second just a nose behind Chatfield Road on a day when inside speed was carrying the day.

Browneyed Bachelor (1) is one I will use in my lower rungs if I bet an exacta or a trifecta here, but I have no interest in him as a winner.  He hasn’t won a race since December of 2012, though he has ticked off six third-place finishes since then — including three consecutive coming into this race.

Race 8: $30,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf

There isn’t a lot of blazing early speed here, but also not much in the way of deep closers.  I expect to see a fairly tightly packed group here, with a stretch dash to the finish line.  Dakota Digger (8) has been racing on dirt through the winter, but will be returning to the turf, as well as dropping back into pure claimers after a few recent runs at the allowance optional claiming level.  He is frequently fast enough to do well in this crowd, and will likely relish the return to a bit longer race, and to turf instead of dirt.  Dancing Rock (5) comes in here off of a long lay; he last raced at Arlington back in September.  He drops in class here, however, for his lowest level in almost two years.  He has shown more than enough speed in those allowance-level races last fall to suggest that if he comes in here in any way the same horse he was, he will be a force here.  His workouts aren’t great, but they’re also on dirt; turf is his clearly preferred surface.  Real Power (2) is on a bit of a class rise here, and has been running on dirt through the winter.  However, he did race on the turf as recently as last year, and makes his first start for the barn who claimed him on April 11th.  He stands to improve returning to the turf, and should at least hit the board at a mile given this field.

Race 9: $30,000 allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, turf, or state-bred allowance OR non-winners since June 30 OR N3L OR $30,000 claiming price, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt

The likely early speed in this race will come from Phaniebdancing (1) and Lock N Lola (5).  She’ll be chalk, but Phaniebdancing is the best of that early speed.  She has the inside post, and she was able to dispatch a $75,000 allowance optional claimer last December in wire-to-wire fashion, and two starts ago she finished second by just a neck to Diva’s Diamond, winner of yesterday’s Peach Of It Handicap here at Hawthorne (as well as last year’s Peach Of It!).  She has never missed the board, and there is no reason she can’t keep that streak going today.  Lock N Lola isn’t a bad choice, either.  She has shown enough speed to contend with this field, especially last meet.  She is in her third race off the winter layoff here, and has at least shown the ability to get this distance (unlike Polar Plunge (5), a horse with some back class but who has shown no routing ability).  Julmae (2) I will likely use under in exactas or tris; she has good speeds for the field, and is repeatedly a contender in allowances at this distance at Hawthorne.  However, the four-year-old filly has not won a race since her juvenile year, so she may not be the best option to use for the top rung or for multi-race wagers.  She is fast enough to hang with this field, but she probably would need a class drop as a confidence builder.  Yet another race at the same level probably won’t get her in the winner’s circle.

Race 10: Maiden special weight ($27,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt

We end the day, and the meet, with a pretty solid state-bred maiden special.  Karla With A K (9) is a first-time starter, but she has been burning up the track down at Fairmount; her last three workouts have been bullets.  Her connections, trainer Tom Dorris and jockey Timothy Thornton, have both been very successful this meet.  Between her connections and her works, she would have to be a complete head case in the paddock for me to count her out.  Speaking of first-time starters, Chris Block has one in this race as well, Elizabeth’s Fever (1).  The Block barn wins at a 17% rate with first-time starters, so I am at least going to take a look at her in the paddock, and include her in my ticket if she is ready to run.  I don’t love the workouts, which is what gives me pause despite the strong connections.  Over Again (10), a third-time starter, come in from a second-place finish behind Scarletridgerunner two weeks ago.  That last start was the second of her career, and if he does not regress from that effort, she could graduate today.  She breaks from the ninth gate (in light of the scratch of Kitty’s Castle), but he broke from the 8 position last time out — showing that she can succeed from the outside.  If she is anywhere near the 30-1 on the morning line, Gothic Princess (4) could be a good price play.  She has only started once before, a six furlong open maiden special back in November, where she was bumped at the break, got up to stalk, but faltered.  She has a couple of one-mile works this month, which are good to see going into a six-furlong race.  She also adds Lasix for the first time.

Good luck, everyone!  Don’t worry, Blinkers Off will not be disappearing when Hawthorne goes dark.  It will just be adjourning to Arlington for the next five months, to continue following the local live racing.  See you there!

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