Hawthorne full-card picks and analysis: 12.20.14

Three more weekends remain in the Hawthorne meet…though it would be hard to guess that, given the lack of snow on the ground combined with the relatively warm temperatures.  The mercury is above freezing, and it is not particularly windy today.   The stakes season may be over, but today’s card features a full nine races, including a nice Illinois-bred sprint allowance as well as a contentious two-year-old maiden race for juvenile fillies.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the card!

Race 1: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, one mile and seventy yards over the dirt

Selections: Rainbow Trip (5), Wildwoodsgreatest (2), My Crafty Friend (4)

There is a lot of early speed in this race, and Rainbow Trip should be well set to come from off the pace.  He has some adaptability there — he can come from far back, but can also come from only a few lengths off: important because even though it has not been a wire job every race, it has been beneficial to at least be in touch with the pace early.  He should improve third off the lay, and also gets a rider change to Emmanuel Esquivel, who rode him to a third-place finish against tougher over the summer.  Wildwoodsgreatest is one of the speed brigade, but has shown the ability to win on a contested lead.  He showed some toughness last out: despite being bumped around at the start, he got close to the pace early and won by a length and a half.  Santo Sanjur rode that day, and returns to the irons here.  He steps to the next condition up here, but trainer Scott Becker wins at 23% with winners of their last race, suggesting he spots them well.  Furthermore, Becker and Sanjur have been 7 of their last 13, with a +$4.60 ROI, over the last two months.  My Crafty Friend should be able to stay out of the front-end battle, but be close enough to be in touch with the pace.  Still, if he is hung farther back, he has the versatility to at least hit the board, as he showed in his second-place finish two back.

Race 2: $12,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, three years old OR N3L, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Lewis Meadow (4), Don’t Tell Me No (1)

This race originally had a field of seven, but was scratched down to four.  That explains the existence of two selections instead of three, though this field size is approaching “so small that the ALL button may just make sense.”  Lewis Meadow’s last race was her best yet for the connections that claimed her back in the spring, and she has the versatility to go to the front early or rate off of it.  She gets top rider Emmanuel Esquivel, and also has a 4-2-1-0 record over the Hawthorne dirt.  Don’t Tell Me No has been going a bit longer recently, but cuts back to six furlongs here — a distance at which she is 4-2-1-1 career.  She is another one who, like Lewis Meadow, has shown that she can go to the front, or win from a stalking spot.  If she runs back to her form earlier in the fall she will be dangerous, but Lewis Meadow gets the slight nod as her form cycle suggests a bit more improvement than Don’t Tell Me No’s does.

Race 3: Maiden special weight ($22,000 purse), two-year-old fillies, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Gold Dust Diva (1), Knotty Wild Girl (3), Media Star (4)

Gold Dust Diva, a second-time starter, closed to finish just two lengths shy of an uncontested leader last out.  That was a race on the Gold Cup undercard, a day on which speed was carrying well.  She put up a sharp five-furlong work since that race, and also gets a rider change to Emmanuel Esquivel.  Trainer Joel Berndt is a respectable 15% (with slightly positive ROI) with two-year-olds, and rider Emmanuel Esquivel has been 2 for his last 6 riding for Berndt.  If she builds at all on that debut outing she will be formidable, and even if she just runs back to it she should contend.  Knotty Wild Girl is a third-time starter, and finished fourth in the same race in which Gold Dust Diva debuted.  That last race was her first in over a month, so she comes here off a slightly shorter lay than that.  Trainer Ingrid Mason is 19% with runners in maiden special weights.  Furthermore, the breeding suggests some precocity — though she is the first runner by Wildcat Heir out of her dam, two half-siblings by D’Wildcat (a sire from the same line) both won second time out.  Media Star, a third-time starter for the sharp two-year-old barn of Jim DiVito, failed as the odds-on favourite last time out.  It was a somewhat baffling performance, as she had no clear excuse.  Between the trainer’s 27% strike rate with two-year-olds, jockey Tim Thornton’s riding skills, and the promise she showed first out, though, she is worth at least using defensively in a multi-race bet.

Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one mile and seventy yards over the dirt

Selections: Culpa (5), Show’em Pop (7), Rampent Rumour (3)

Culpa has been very well beaten in his last three starts.  However, most of those starts were against significantly tougher company.  Last out, when he finally dropped to run against somewhat similar company (state-bred $10,000 claimers), he was running in a sprint.  He stretches back out to a route here, which should suit him better.  He returns to jockey Tim Thornton, who should be a good fit for his stalking style.  Culpa has only hit the board three times in his career — all of which have been going two turns at Hawthorne.  He should be a square price given the dodgy recent form, and the class drop and stretch out should get him back on track.  Show’em Pop broke his maiden last out, the first time Israel Ocampo had ridden him.  Ocampo returns today.  Trainer Scott Becker is a solid 19% with last-out maien winners, and he and Ocampo have been 71% in the money in the last two months.  Pacewise, he came from mid-pack lastout, though he has shown some speed in his earlier races.  There is not a ton of speed here, but it suggests that he could at least stay well enough in touch to run late if Rampent Rumour falters on the front.  The aforementioned Rampent Rumour is the only one in the field who has done their best work on the front end; he broke his maiden in frontrunning fashion three races back.  That was over this same course and distance.  Edgar Perez was not aboard that day, but he did finish second on Rampent Rumour over the summer, suggesting some ability to mesh with the horse.  He also hit the board with this runner last out, finishing third behind a much-the-best Looks to Spare.  There is no Looks to Spare in this field, and if speed carries today, Rampent Rumour can get the best of it at a price.

Race 5: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one mile and seventy yards over the dirt

Selections: Little Elhayq (8), Holy Bomber (2), Fiddler Blue (4)

Though Malbros is the closest thing this field has to a speed horse, he also has a tendency to falter.  Little Elhayq should get first run on him.  He stretched out t a mile and a sixteenth for the first time last out, and finished a good second against similar.  He comes back to two turns today.  He has liked this track; though he has no wins at Hawthorne, he is 4-1-0-2, suggesting some consistency.  The trainer/jockey pair is also a sharp one: Steve Manley and Santo Sanjur, who are hitting at 19% wins and a positive ROI in 43 starts over the last two months.  Holy Bomber comes in here second off the layoff.  This is also his second start in the Chris Dorris barn; Dorris is a 20% winner with second-timers for his barn.  There is some question that he may bounce off his last race, but enough changed (the trainer, the jockey, the racecourse) that he might just have gotten better.  With a win at the distance and a return to the same rider, anything near his 8/1 morning line is enough to bet he is just in a better place.  Fiddler Blue may not have the best pace setup here, as he is a midpack to closing type, but he has the speed and the class to contend here.  what makes him particularly interesting here is that he is trying a dirt route for the first time in a year and a half.  He has gone two times on the dirt twice, but both were at Churchill and both were against significantly harder company.  They were also when he was running for a different trainer; it will be his first dirt route in the Clay Brinson barn, which is striking at 27% on the Hawthorne meet.  He was running well enough late last out that it seems worth a try again — by Bluegrass Cat out of a Slew O’ Gold mare, the distance should suit him just fine.

Race 6, Starter optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, starters for a claiming price of $6,250 or less in 2014 OR claiming price $12,500, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Immoral Lifestyle (3), Beauty of Scarlet (2), Masquerade Fashion (5)

There is a decent amount of early speed in this race, but Immoral Lifestyle looks to be the speed of it.  He takes a class rise from last out, when she cleared the N4L condition against $7,500 company.  That was a sharp race — though she is a speed type, she did not get the very front early, and then came back again when she was headed.  Immoral Lifestyle is game, and should be able to bring a fight to other front-enders like Camagin and Mr. Mabee’s Baby here.  Though Julio Felix, who rode last out, does not return — Emmanuel Esquivel does have the call, and he has been hitting at 22% on the meet, and 18% in sprints in general.  Beauty of Scarlet returns to a more fitting level after faltering in tougher allowance optional company last out.  She won two back against $18,000 open company, going this same distance at Hawthorne.  If she rebounds from that flat last effort back to her usual form, she will be tough here.  She also gets a rider change to Tim Thornton — though it means she will be toting a few more pounds than she did with Rolando Aragon aboard her last two races, Thornton is hitting at 30% (with 70% in the money) over the last two months with trainer Roger Brueggemann.  Masquerade Fashion comes in here on a class drop, and is a stalking to midpack type.  With as many runners as like to be on the front, she should have something to close into late.  She is not the most consistent horse on the planet, but one of her good races puts her right with this company.  Four of her five career wins have come at this distance, and she does have three wins over the track.  New rider Edgar Perez has a slightly positive ROI with horses who have a similar running style; he should be a good fit, and they should go off a square price.

Race 7: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014 OR non-winners of three races in 2013-2014 OR N4L, five and a half furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Finishline Fever (8), I’m Old School (7), What Do You Mean (9)

Finishline Fever drops to the lowest class level of his career.  He faltered against $12,500 company last out, but it was also his first race since July.  That was also a route race.  Two starts back, Finishline Fever won a six furlong sprint at Canterbury; he also broke his maiden going five panels.  The route may have been a bit much to ask first off the lay.  Second off the lay looks a strong angle with this one: he won at Hawthorne second off a winter lay earlier this year, broke his maiden second time out in the summer of 2013, and runs for 34% second-off trainer Clay Brinson.  His stalking to midpack style should suit the race well; there is no shortage of early speed here, and he should be able to stalk close enough to stay in the race if forward placings remain important today.  I’m Old School takes a notch up in class from last out, but tends to run fast enough to contend with this field.  He should be forwardly placed, but also has the ability to remain in contention if he is stalking close, or on a contested lead.  Trainer Alnaz Ali is a sharp 19% with dirt runners, and he gets a rider change to Emmanuel Esquivel.  What Do You Mean finished third against similar company last out.  This eight-year-old gelding is a consistent type for this level: he doesn’t win a lot in recent years, but this year he has been 11-1-4-3.  Though he is a bit better on the all-weather, he still has a 23-2-2-7 record at Hawthorne, suggesting he is a strong candidate for undersides of intra-race bets.  He also loves the distance: in eight tries at five and a half panels, he has hit the board seven times, with two wins.

Race 8: Allowance ($24,200 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 twice OR non-winners of two state-bred races other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N4L, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Jazzy Sun (7), Goesse (3), Lassell (5)

For my detailed analysis of this race, read this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.

Race 9: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014 OR non-winners of three races in 2013-2014 OR N4L, five and a half furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Headstart (4), Bluegrass Dan (3), Reddick Township (9)

The ALL button may be your friend here — this is an evenly matched bunch of horses.  Space Traveler is the 9/5 favourite, and stands a good chance to at least hit the board due to his consistency.  He did finally win a race last out after a long string of seconds, but it was against somewhat weaker company, and it makes no sense to take a short price in such a contentious field.  Headstart surfaced last out for the first time in over a year, and was running late to win in $5,000 N1Y company.  This is a class rise, but any improvement second off the lay makes him competitive here.  Trainer Doug Matthews is a respectable 18% with runners second off the lay, and 27% with runners returning for a tag.  This runner has not only won over the track, but is 8-2-2-1 in dash-length races.  He gets a rider change to Emanuel Cosme here, but he should be a good fit for Headstart’s midpack to closing style.  If Bluegrass Dan gets a fight on the front, Headstart will be mowing them down late.  The aforementioned Bluegrass Dan looks the speed of the speed, and takes a class drop to the lowest level of his career.  He has missed the board in three starts over dirt, which is the biggest strike against him, but all three of those starts have been against tougher.  He does like this distance; he has a win at 5 1/2 furlongs on grass, as well as a win at five furlongs over poly.  There are several others in the field who may be forwardly placed, but Bluegrass Dan has the speed to outgun them all early, and early speed has been strong particularly in these dash-length races this meet.  Finally, consider Reddick Township, 20/1 on the morning line, as a possible bomb.  He went off at 48/1 last out in open $8,000 company, and finished second beaten just a length and a half.  He should be forwardly placed early, and all three of his career wins have come at dash-length distances.  Rider Uriel Lopez, who rode him for the first time in that second-place finish last out, returns to the irons today.  In such a tough field, he has the most to recommend him among the truly long prices in the field.

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