12.27.14: full-card Hawthorne picks and analysis

Saturday has rolled around again: the second-to-last Saturday of the fall Hawthorne meet.  The rain that was threatened looks like it is holding off, and we are left with a cloudy yet oddly warm December day of racing.  Hawthorne has a full card of nine races, including a couple of maidens, a juvenile (non-maiden!) race, and a sprint allowance that features the return of Summer Again, the surprise second-place finisher in the Powerless Handicap earlier this month.

Let’s dive into the card!

Race 1: $15,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, six and a half furlongs over the dirt

Selections:  Precious Abbey (6), Lady Ice (1), Mz. Oceanaire (4)

Precious Abbey has been second her last two times out.  Though she is racing for a higher tag than in those, she also moves from the lowest available rung of open maiden claiming company to the lowest available rung of state-bred maiden claiming company.  Though she was a well-beaten 9th at this state-bred level once, that was first time out, and over polytrack.  She has been better on dirt, and should have enough pace to attack with Lady Ice, Raja Breeze, and Mz. Oceanaire all in the field.  Lady Ice takes a big class drop here, from $30,000 open company at Churchill to $15,000 state-reds here.  She faltered last out going seven panels, but was twice third at shorter distances, including a third-place finish in state-bred maiden special company at Hawthorne on her debut.  She is trained by 21% maiden claiming trainer Wayne Catalano, and gets a rider change to Israel Ocampo.  Mz. Oceanaire has been close her last three outings, including falling short by just a head last out against open $17,500 company.  She has hit the board in all five career starts on dirt, suggesting it is her best surface.  Emanuel Cosme, who rode her for the first time in that close call against tougher, returns here.  The repeated close-but-no-cigar factor makes her win prospects less than exciting, but she should at least hit the board, and is one of the better runners in this field.

Race 2: $25,000 claiming, two-year-old fillies, N2L, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: A Little Unique (3), She’s Deceitful (2), Spell Winder (6)

A Little Unique is the only horse in this field who, to date, has shown an affinity for setting the fractions.  She is also taking a class drop here, after finishing seventh against state-bred stakes company in the Showtime Deb last out.  She should be dangerous if she can run back to her maiden win, against state-bred maiden special company two starts back.  Trainer Tom Swearingen is 16% with juveniles, and rider Santo Sanjur has a positive ROI with frontrunning types.  She’s Deceitful faltered going two turns against the boys last out, but moves back to one turn against fillies only here.  Two starts back, she broke her maiden at 5 1/2 panels over this same course against fillies, and may be the only one in close touch with A Little Unique early.  Spell Winder graduated in $17,500 company last out, in her first start on the dirt.  She runs for 24% last-out maiden winner trainer Joel Berndt.  Emmanuel Esquivel did not ride her in her maiden win, but has been riding well enough at Hawthorne to bet that her massive improvement last out was more due to the class relief and the surface change than to the rider, especially at the likely square price.

Race 3: $5,000 starter allowance, three-year-olds and up, starters for a claiming price of $5,000 or less in 2014, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Luck With a Kiss (3), Rushin’ Rubietta (4), Surf Cast (1)

Luck With a Kiss is a dyed-in-the-wool speed horse, and should have a plum pace setup here with no one else in the field who has done much of anything on the early lead.  He wired $5,000 company last out, and absolutely loves this track: he is 16-7-5-2 on the Hawthorne dirt.  The rail has been a good place to be, and Luck With a Kiss should be the inside speed.  Manny Perez’s 0-33 first-off-the-claim record is not a positive sign, but there is enough about this horse to make him attractive here nonetheless.  Rushin’ Rubietta, winner of his last two, should have first run on Luck With a Kiss.  He won at this level last out, first off the claim-back by Ray Tracy.  He cuts back from two turns last out, but has three wins at this distance and run for a 22% route-to-sprint barn.  Thornton rode last out, and returns to the irons today.  Surf Cast has been in cracking good form in his last four starts, ever since switching to rider Santo Sanjur.  He has a sharp 10-4-1-2 record on the track, and seven of his ten career wins have come at this distance.  He can put up speeds that compare well with the field, and the ability that he showed last out to stalk a bit closer up could be helpful here.  He also drew the rail — something that has been strong on Friday, and a post from which he won four starts back.

Race 4: $17,500 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections:  Disorderly Conduct (5), It’s a Great Life (2), Due to Grace (1)

Usually a 13-start maiden carries no interest whatsoever, but Disorderly Conduct drops into maiden claiming company for the first time ever here.  His speeds are frequently sharp for the field, and she has been running against and frequently hitting the board against legitimate allowance-level horses.  He may well be better on the polytrack than on dirt, but has hit the board twice in six starts over the Hawthorne main.  Trainer John Wainwright has been strong when dropping horses from maiden special to maiden claiming, and Julio Felix returns to the irons.  Three starts back, Felix got him home third against open maiden special company.  It’s a Great Life stands to be the chalk of the field, but there are several good reasons why.  He was terrible last out, but that was with first-time blinkers — blinkers being removed here.  He drops back for a tag for the first time since his first start, and this is the lowest level of his career by far.  Except for the bad experiment with blinkers, his speeds are very strong for this field, and his inside placement should help.  Those two stand head and withers over the rest, but to fill out exotics, why not Due to Grace?  She (yes, this is a filly running against colts) starts for the second time here, and adds Lasix for the first time.  She drops from $50,000 company last out.  Her rail draw should help her along, and she should be a long price given her less-than-inspiring first out.  In a wide-open field such as this, she has a few more gossamer threads on which to clutch than most in the field.

Race 5: Allowance ($23,100 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, six and a half furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Summer Again (1), Indian Artifact (7), Exquisite Lady (4)

Summer Again was second last out in the Powerless Handicap, a state-bred stakes race, in her first race off a yearlong lay.  Running back to that makes her a threat here; any improvement off of it makes her downright formidable.  There is no shortage of early speed here, so as long as Tim Thornton has some patience and puts her in a good stalking spot, she could have first run on the lead brigade.  The rail draw should not hurt matters; she could save ground, and the rail was a good place to be Friday.  Indian Artifact should be forwardly placed, and has shown the versatility to win from either on the pace or just off it.  Just off it seems most likely here, as she does not have quite the early zip of Exquisite Lady or need-to-lead Distant Mesa.  In five attempts at six and a half furlongs over the main, Indian Artifact has two wins and two thirds, suggesting consistency at the distance.  Finally, rider Santo Sanjur hits at 17% with trainer Steve Manley, with a positive return.  Exquisite Lady steps into open allowance company after winning a state-bred allowance last out.  She is the speed of the speed, though unlike Distant Mesa (the other particularly fast speed type here), she has shown the ability to win from just off the pace early.  That start as well as her start at Hawthorne three back were both strong.  The one two back looks like a bounce, but her race last out did not seem to be quite the strenuous affair that the contested second three back was.

Race 6: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, five and a half furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Exactness (2), Bosque Angel (4), Proud Jackson (3)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the name of the game (yet again) is beating a chalky fellow named Space Traveler.  That did not work out so well last week, as he sailed home much the best in a $5,000 beaten field.  However, this week, there are several things that weigh against him: he wheels back on just a week’s rest off a lifetime top, while taking a class rise.  He will be well bet, and may well hit the board, but will be an underlay and questionable on top.  Rail-drawn Exactness is 10/1 on the morning line, and has a lot to recommend him.  In addition to the inside draw, he drops in class to his lowest level since September, the lowest since being claimed into the Eduardo Rodriguez barn.  His 5-3-0-2 record at 5 1/2 furlongs is encouraging, as is his win over the course earlier this meet.  Though he can sometimes set the speed, he does his even better work from a stalking place — helpful, as he is unlikely to outgun Bosque Angel for the front.  Bosque Angel drops in class here from starter optional company on turf last out, though won in $10,000 beaten company at Thistledown two starts back.  He was claimed into the Clay Brinson barn three starts back at Canterbury, for a price of $10,000 — which is what gives a bit of pause here, since a horse who won for $10,000 two back is now running for $5,000, with only a suboptimal turf start showing between.  However, he is 2-3 at the distance, and looks like a strong possibility for lone speed.  Furthermore, trainer Clay Brinson is 24% on the meet and 28% in claiming races.  He has been working steadily since that last race, and fired a bullet four furlongs on December 21.  Proud Jackson is solid in speed for this field, and has a decent 7-2-1-2 record at five and a half panels on the main.  Santo Sanjur returns to the irons; they were second beaten just a length against the same level last time at six furlongs, and they cut back here.  Pacewise, he may need a bit of help, but if Bosque Angel gets some contention either from Exactness or Space Traveler, he should pick up the pieces.

Race 7: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mare, non-winners of a race since July 27, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Switchen Er Up (2), Uptown Babe (5), Russian Rhapsody (1)

There should be a good bit of early speed in this race, and Switchen Er Up should be forwardly placed.  Still, she should be able to sit just off it, and is fast enough to contend here.  She is also taken a class drop, from $5,000 beaten (against which she wa s a close second two back) to non-winners in five months.  She is a six-furlong specialist, with all four of her career wins plus another seven on-board finishing coming in sixteen starts over it.  Finally, she gets back rider Emmanuel Esquivel, who still leads the colony, and got her home second against tougher last out.  Uptown Babe drops here from open $5,000 company, and cuts back to six furlongs, her best distance.  She likes the Hawthorne track a lot, having hit the board in 16 of her 21 starts over it.  She is also a solid 27-5-8-5 at the distance.  Pacewise she is versatile, able to win from right on the front or a few back; look for her a few back with as much speed as there is here.  Russian Rhapsody, drew the rail, and comes into this race second off the lay.  Trainer Scott Becker is a sharp 23% second off the lay.  Her speeds are sharp for the field, and this lightly raced (for the field) runner does have a win at the distance and the speed to contend here.  She drops in from open $5,000 company, in which she finished second to the blistering hot Maryjean last out.  The worry is that there is quite a bit of other early speed in here, but Russian Rhapsody stands to be the fastest among it.  Grace of Greatness should be her biggest challenge up front early; Russian Rhapsody’s inside placing should help her, and she showed in her maiden win that she can handle a contested pace at this distance.

Race 8: $20,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six furlongs over the dirt

Selections: Iker (4), Try Arguing Harder (2), Quality Guy (8)

Iker takes a drop here from $25,000 company, where he lost by just a head to Shanghai Red last out.  He gets a switch back to rider Tim Thornton, who guided him to his only career win so far last December at Hawthorne.  With Inguagiata, Try Arguing Harder, and Looking At Country all likely to be on the front, his off-pace abilities should come into play.  Though that second last out was a front-end effort, the maiden win with Thornton was an off-pace run over this same distance and track.  His speeds are sharp for the field, and he looks to be settling in the right class level.  Try Arguing Harder was second by a head last out at this level, going five furlongs over the dirt.  He is a front-end type, and will get some fight, but he proved both in his maiden win last out as well as in that close second last out that he can handle pressure on the front.  Though that maiden win came at Thistledown, he has hit the board in four of eight starts at Hawthorne, showing he can at least handle the surface.  He runs for a Roger Brueggemann barn that is 21% this meet, and 26% generally on the dirt; Brueggemann has placed Try Arguing Harder well returning to this level.  Finally, it is often hard to take a horse stepping up from maiden $12,500 to $20,000 N2L, but Quality Guy looks to have what he needs to take that class rise.  His speeds are heavyweight compared to the field, and his maiden win came last out at this same distance over the Gulfstream Park West dirt.  His running style also speaks in his favour; his maiden win came from midpack early with a wide move, helpful given his outermost draw.  The ship is a question, especially since he has no recorded works at Hawthorne since the ship, but there is a good chance he is flat-out the fastest horse in this field.  With as much speed as there is in front of him, it seems the best possible situation for him to take this class rise.

Race 9: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, one and one sixteenth miles over the dirt

Selections:  Regimented (4), Life at Sea (1), M J Seeker (10)

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

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