Fall is upon us, and tonight is the only nighttime card of the Hawthorne meet! Though tonight would typically be the night of the Hawthorne Derby (GIII) as well as the Indian Maid handicap, those races were unfortunately slashed, just as all the open stakes races other than the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) in November have been this year. However, there is still a full nine-race card. It is a bit-scratch-marred, since the turf races have been shifted over to good dirt.
Still…scratches or no scratches, Blinkers Off is back at the home track, and being reunited feels so good. Let’s get to the races!
Race 1: $8,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares one mile and 70 yards on the dirt (originally one mile on the turf)
Selections: Tactical Girl (4), Terice (10), Clontarf (8)
This race was originally discussed on this weekend’s Chicago Railbird, but those selections were for turf. Unfortunately, with the race being moved to the dirt, all my original selections have scratched. Also, unfortunately, Terice becomes a must-use. She is the morning line favourite, and there were plenty of options to beat her on grass. However, on the good-rated dirt, she is extremely dangerous. She has won two of her three career starts on off dirt. Even though her form has been slightly less sharp in her new barn, the surface change benefits her greatly, and trainer Clay Brinson does mean business with his shippers: he wins at 37% first off a ship. There is one price horse in the field who has also shown some strong for on off tracks: Tactical Girl. In six races over off-going, she has a win and three other on-the-board finishes. Her two recent works since her last race have been sharp, and there’s enough speed remaining in the race (Bonita Rita, Delightful Daisy, possibly Clontarf) to give her something to attack late. Among the rest, consider Clontarf. She has shown versatility of pace, being able to win from the front or form farther back. She ran well on the Hawthorne dirt last meet through the winter and spring, and should improve returning to that surface.
Race 2: $15,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Beijing Bay (9), Three Brothers (6), Council Thrill (10)
Beijing Bay is a second-time starter, running on dirt for the first time. He ran at this level and distance last out, rushing up early but fading out of contention. He has worked back once well, and runs for a Chris Block barn that wins at 16% with second-time starters and 21% in maiden claimers in general. He is bred well for sprinting, and his breeding (by Chelokee out of a Prospect Bay mare) suggests he will handle the good-rated track just fine. Three Brothers takes the blinkers back off here, and makes his first attempt at a sprint in the claiming ranks. He did run for a tag last time, but that was at a mile and a sixteenth on poly — his breeding (by Benchmark out of a Not For Love mare) suggests sprinting to be more likely his thing. This is also Three Brothers’ first attempt on dirt, and Not For Love is a 19% mud influence. With the track rated “good” today, that should help a bit. He has also been on the shelf for almost two months, with a couple of decent works since. If he is strong and fresh today, he could be tough. Finally, Council Thrill is a second-time starter, going first-time Lasix. He was well-beaten last out over all weather, but tries dirt here. Since that last race he has taken a work over the Hawthorne dirt, suggesting he can handle it.
Worth taking a swing against here is Smoke Daddy (3), the 9/5 morning line favourite. Smoke Daddy did not do comparably poorly, and may contend if he improves further yet. However, it seems a bit suspicious that he ran his best race to date first off a yearlong lay, and then has regressed since then. Maybe he will improve here, as it is his first start on dirt. Still, he does not loom over this field the way he would need to in order to take short odds on him.
Race 3: $15,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt (originally turf)
Selections: Dos de Bastos (9), Bushido (1), Lenapah (7)
Though this race was taken off the grass, only one horse scratched. Thus, the name of the game here is speed, speed, and more early speed…suggesting it will set up well for a horse who can rate. With the wash-off, the top selection is Dos de Bastos (9). He is a perfect two-for-two on off dirt tracks, and is taking a class drop here. He is running first off the claim for Larry Rivelli, who wins at 25% when dropping horses off the claim. Even though he can be a speed horse, he can also run well while rated a bit back — a style that should help him out here. Top Hawthorne rider Tim Thornton has the call. Bushido is the only other one in th field with a win over off going, having won his maiden race over a wet-fast Hawthorne track last year. He has put up some speeds that compare favourably with the field, and does all of his best efforts from a few lengths off the pace. He will sit off the speed, and will handle the surface. Finally, look at the class-dropping Lenapah. Lenapah is a closing type, perfect for the pace scenario here. He has won at a mile and a sixteenth on dirt. This will be his first shot on an off track, but sire Flower Alley and damsire El Prado are both 16% in the mud, suggesting he has a chance to handle the going. He comes in off of a two-month freshening, but has put up two works since, including a perfectly creditable four-furlong move at Hawthorne on October 1.
Race 4: $15,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, one mile 70 yards on the dirt
Selections: Griffin the Great (2), Due Course (8), Cleopatra’s Storm (5)
Detailed discussion of this race is available in this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.
Race 5: Allowance ($21,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt (originally turf)
Selections: Laythatpistoldown (7), Indy Awesome (10), Doug Junior (9)
Pace makes the race, and Laythatpistoldown is the best of the speed. This Chris Block trainee can close if he needs to, but does most of his better work on the front end. Though he almost always runs on the turf, he has not acquitted himself poorly on the dirt: in three starts on dirt, he has a second and a third, and both of those have come at Hawthorne. He should have it his way on the front end, but not get too flustered if Doug Junior outguns him early. Indy Awesome has finally figured out how to race since moving from the Ian Wilkes barn to the Clay Brinson barn. He looked baffling almost to the point of hopelessness when the race was carded for turf, but on dirt, he looks a far stronger proposition. He won his only attempt on an off-track, a 2 3/4 length romp over the Canterbury slop last out. He stalked fairly close to the pace there early, suggesting he will not be too compromised by the lack of early speed. That race was a month and a half ago, but he did put up a sharp work over that time, and Brinson wins at a dazzling 39% with horses off 46-90 days. Finally, consider Doug Junior on pace and price. This horse is the only one other than Laythatpistoldown who really likes being around the lead, but can also stalk a few lengths off if he is outgunned. Heidi Rose is not normally the strongest jockey, but she has piloted Doug Junior to three wins this year, at both Hawthorne and Arlington. She knows how to ride this one. He has never won on an off-track before, but does have a second and a third in three starts over less-than-fast going. Both the pace and the change to dirt help Doug Junior, and he should be a price.
Race 6: Maiden special weight ($20,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Seven Zip (5), Lake Snow (2), Three Tootsies (4)
Detailed discussion of this race is available in this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.
Race 7: $8,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Lagoon of Diamonds (3), Beach Master (1), Angel Talk (4)
Lagoon of Diamonds loves off going — he is 9-4-3-1 on off dirt. With the track rated good today, that’s exactly what this Fairmount shipper is going to get. His recent speed has been good for this field, and he has a good chance to gun to the front with no real speed inside of him. He is also quite sharp at six furlongs: 18-4-4-4 career. His experience at Hawthorne is a little short, just two races, but he did finish second at the $7,500 beaten level once here last winter. Beach Master comes in here on a big class drop, last running in $25,000 company. He struggled on synthetic over the summer, but last won at this distance at Tampa over the winter. He took a break, and comes here second off a two-month lay. Trainer Jimmy DiVito is 32% second off the lay. His stalking style should keep him right in the mix here, and the return to dirt will only help. All three of his wins have been on dirt, including one over off going. Angel Talk is a six-furlong specialist: nine of his thirteen wins have come at this distance, with eleven more times on the board. Even though he typically needs a race off the layoff, he is working well leading into this, and the scratch-marred field is left just weak enough that he has a shot.
Race 8: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Giacamo Strap (2), Bellodini (13), Lamask City (6)
Scratches or no scratches, Giacomo Strap is the one to beat. He broke his maiden three starts back, and followed that up with two perfectly creditable attempts in $6,250 N2L company at Canterbury. His speeds are good for the field, and he consistently shows up. There is a boatload of early speed in this field, even after the scratches, and Giacomo Strap does his better work from a couple lengths off early. Though his win was at five furlongs, he has hit the board in longer sprints; getting six will be no trouble for him. Bellodini drew in off the also-eligible list, and has hit the board in both of his starts over off dirt. He won over a wet-fast track at Hawthorne last winter to break his maiden. He drops from $7,500 company last out, and will likely relish the switch back from all-weather to dirt. He comes from midpack or farther back, so is certain to let the speed wear itself out before pouncing late. The outside post is not great, but he will in effect be breaking from the 9 gate and not the 13 — and he has won from the 9 post at Hawthorne before. Lamask City broke his maiden last out, and steps up here from Fairmount. His trainer Scott Becker has been on a tear as of late, and has been 28% (for a +$1.74 ROI) with jockey Chris Emigh over the last two months. Lamask City ahs been on the shelf since mid-August, but Becker wins at 26% with runners on similar-length lays. In that maiden win, he stalked from just off the speed early before pulling away in the final furlongs. If he looks good in the paddock and stays near his 12/1 morning line, it’s worth betting that the light is now on with Lamask City.
Race 9: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014, one mile and 70 yards on the dirt
Selections: Gold Legion (10), Blue Canoe (11), Officer McNeal (1)
This is a race a long shot. Gold Legion, 20/1 on the morning line, returns to trainer Doug Matthews. He has been in the barn of Steve Fridley for the last year or so, but never raced as well there as he did for Matthews. He gets a return to his old trainer, and a return to Hawthorne: a track over which he is 21-6-5-3 lifetime. He is first off a lay since late July, but Matthews wins at 24% off simialr ly length lays. He loves off tracks, being 5-1-2-1 career over dirt less than fast, and seven of his eight wins have been at this distance. If he looks good in the paddock? Bombs away. Blue Canoe (11) drops in class here, and comes in second off the lay. There should be enough sleed up front to suit his closing style, and his speeds will be strong for the field assuming he recovers his form second off. He has put up a good work since last out, so he should be on his way to that. The easier company should also help him along. Finally, look at Officer McNeal along the rail. He returns to the Jerry Hammond barn after a disappointing start at Belterra, and has two wins in eight starts over the dirt at Hawthorne. He also has win over slop at Fairmount, in his only off-track attempt. His speeds compare favourably to the field, and even though he has won from the front, he has done most of his better work closing — helpful, given how many speedy types are in this field. He is also very sharp at this distance: 10-3-2-2 lifetime.