Though many eyes will be on the stakes action at Santa Anita, Tampa Bay Downs, Oaklawn and Aqueduct, Hawthorne still has a full card of nine races. The weather has gotten significantly warmer, so keeping an eye on how the track plays through the first few races could be key. Also, keep an eye on how apprentice rider Vicente Gudiel carries on after his mammoth five-win day yesterday. He has been riding the rail as well as anyone at Hawthorne this meet, and if the inside remains good despite the warmer weather, he will be dangerous once again.
Let’s dive into the card!
Race 1: $8,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Sing Kitty Sing (6), Only Annie Peach (5), Little Frances (4)
Sing Kitty Sing was claimed last out by Tammy Domenosky, a 19% trainer first off the claim. She is a speed horse, and if Only Annie Peach does not fire (a possibility first off the lay), she could very well be gone. She has hit the board in eleven of sixteen starts at the distance, and finished second against this company two starts back. Only Annie Peach usually needs a race off a freshening, but was in some of her best form near the tail end of last meet. She takes a notch up form $7,500 N4L company in her last two outings, but if she fires, she’s the speed of the speed with Tim Thornton aboard. Little Frances will not likely win; she is 0-12 at the distance, and has not seen the winners’ circle in a long time. But, she has hit the board in eight of those twelve starts at six panels, and finished second against similar company last out. She is fast enough and in good enough recent form to be a logical key for undersides.
Race 2: $10,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt
Selections: Cheroben (7), Griffin the Great (4), Ballistic Tim (3)
Cheroben drops here to the lowest level of his career. Though his last two starts off a long lay have not been great, he had some back form to which he can run, and those races were against allowance company. He has hit the board in four of nine starts at the distance, and gets hot apprentice rider Vicente Gudiel aboard. Griffin the Great graduated last out against $7,500 maiden company, and this is a step forward. However, trainer Emmagene Schwan is starting the meet hot, and has won four of her last eight with last-out maiden winners. Ballistic Tim was one of Everyone’s Favourite Career Maidens until he graduated two back. He should be the snappiest horse on the inside, is second off the lay, and stretches back to the route distance at which he won.
Race 3: $12,500 claiming, four-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Toro Grande (5), Plains Warrior (4), Sacred Gift (6)
The class fits rail-drawn Hothalfone well here, but the drop off being declared a nonstarter in allowance company last out is more than a little suspicious. Toro Grande interests most here. He drops in class from $18,000 starter optional in his last two starts, and was second behind Georgie My Boy last out. Georgie My Boy returned to win the featured allowance yesterday. His recent speeds are sharp for the field, and his 18-4-4-2 career line at Hawthorne suggets he likes the track. Plains Warrior takes a step up from beating $10,000 N3L company last out, but his recent form is competitive with these. Though he is a speed horse, and there are other speeds in the field, he can still run well on a contested pace. He is working up a storm leading into this start. Sacred Gift has the red-hot husband-and-wife team of trainer Michael Reavis and rider Samantha Colvin, who have hit the board in seven of their last eight. He got a freshening over the winter, and Reavis is a 20% winner off similar lays. He faced much tougher for most of last year, and should be competitive against this softer set.
Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt
Selections: M J Seeker (2), Whereintheworld (6), W W Distinction (1)
The race has been scratched down to a field of just five, so just about anything can happen. M J Seeker is the inside speed, and the only other horse in the field who likes to send is the out-of-form Summer in Montana. M J Seeker drops here from open $5,000 company last out, where he finished a game second behind Ikaros on February 20. Whereintheworld comes back from the same race at this level from which everyone here except M J Seeker wheels back. He was second that day, having shown improvement on both the barn change and the class drop. That was also his first start at Hawthorne; he may have found his place. Rail-drawn W W Distinction appeals for undersides. Few horses love coming in second more than this 35-2-13-2 chap, but he is a closer who reliably fires no matter how slow the pace is in front of him.
Race 5: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Iker (2), Lights On Brite (6), Bahnke (5)
Iker will be the chalk today, but deservedly so. He notches up from a third-place finish against $25,000 company last out, but this is a relatively weak field — not to mention, a three-and-up field in which he is one of only two older horses. His speeds are strong, and he gets Tim Thornton back in the irons. Thornton was aboard for his only career win. He is also versatile in pace — though he was midpack early, he has also turned in sharp efforts from the lead or from a close-stalking spot. Lights On Brite is the only other older horse in the field. He graduated against $17,500 maiden company two weeks ago in his sixteenth start, but has hit the board in nine of those sixteen attempts, including six of eight at the distance. he shoudl go off at a price, and the “strike while the iron is hot” angle with an older horse facing so many three-year-olds is hard to resist. Bahnke looks the best of the three-year-old set. He graduated last out against $17,500 juvenile maidens, and has yet to run a bad race in four starts at Hawthorne. He also has been able to run well from either close up or far back. Trainer Chris Dorris has a +$1.81 ROI with last-out maiden winners, so if he drifts up on the tote board, he could be worth tossing into a play.
Race 6: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners since September 7 OR N3L, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt
Selections: Mischief N Mayhem (3), Clontarf (5), Abby’s Slew (6)
Mischief N Mayhem is the only speed horse in this field. If rider James Bielby (himself first off a fifteen-year lay as a race rider) gets her on the rail and to the front, it will be catch-me-if-you-can. She looked in improved form last out, finishing a game second against similar company, and a run back to that sort of race makes her tough here. Clontarf takes a big class drop here from $10,000 starter optional company at the Fair Grounds last out. She comes in second off a winter lay, and should be able to stalk relatively close to the pace. Her form since being claimed into the Doug Matthews barn is less than inspiring, but there isn’t much to beat here other than the pace-aided Mischief N Mayhem. Abby’s Slew hardly appeals to win between her off-pace style and her 59-3-9-8 career line, but she can run fast enough to hit the board against this set. She comes in second off the layoff, and reverts to rider Constantino Roman, with whom she was beaten only 2 3/4 lengths against similar two starts back.
Race 7: Maiden special weight, three-year-old fillies, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Vivorilla (4), Wildwood Kantharos (6), Puffle Feathers (7)
Gold Dust Diva (2) will go off as the chalk against this bunch, having finished second at this level twice last meet. She can be used defensively in multi-race wagers. However, there are more interesting horses that provide better value in this relatively wide-open maiden field. Vivorilla steps up from state-bred maiden special weight company to open, but was second on opening day. The only other runner out of her dam won first out, suggesting some precocity in her pedigree. Though Uriel Lopez has not won a race yet this meet, he has hit the board in about half his starts, suggesting that line is not as bad as it looks. Wildwood Kantharos has started once before, finishing a well-beaten ninth in a maiden special at Oaklawn. That was over slop, and she faces easier here. She has the Becker/Stiritz/Sanjur triumvirate behind her, a bunch who is always hard to count out. She will have to take a step forward, but on dry dirt, she may. The Rivelli/Thornton production Puffle Feathers faltered on turf last out, but faced much tougher in her two starts over dirt. Her PP lines include names like Eskenformoney and Lassofthemohicans, both of whom are now graded stakes placed. She also cuts back to a sprint for the first time, and may be fast enough to gun to the front despite her outside post.
Race 8: $12,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Hayq’s Fable (3), Forafewdollarsmore (1), Stanley’s Friend (6)
Dr. Clark will be the chalk her, but he is hard to trust. He takes a class rise here for his first start in the John Haran barn, and was well beaten against easier company last out. Hayq’s Fable wheels back after a week, and drops down from state-bred allowance company last out. Still, his speeds are very strong for this field, and he stands to be the speed of the speed. He also gets a seven-pound weight break with the switch to strong apprentice Vicente Gudiel. Forafewdollarsmore has made the ultimate equipment change; this is his first time reported as a gelding. He steps up from $5,000 N3L in his last start, but that was back in October. Trainer Steve Manley is 16% with a slightly positive ROI with runners coming off three-month or longer lays, and he has a string of works leading into this start. He has run good races from near the front or farther back, something that should help his case here. He is the price horse in the field. Stanley’s Friend, running for the hot Reavis/Colvin connection, starts for the first time this meet. He has a long worktab through the winter, with some workouts that are as long as this race. This is a step up from the state-bred $10,000 N2L set that he beat last out, but his 5-2-2-0 line at Hawthorne and his stalking style suggest he can be competitive.
Race 9: $4,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014-2015, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: El Deputy (1), Zavill (3), De Green Light (2)
This race is down to a field of six with the vet scratch of Lord Avie Jones (5). You will either want to go two deep, or push the ALL button. El Deputy is the inside speed, and takes an appreciable drop down in class from $5,000 N1Y types last fall. He tries six furlongs for the first time, and is the only horse in this field who has shown any propensity to go to the lead. He should get even less pressure up there with the scratch, and that should help him keep gas in the tank for the stretch run. Zavill takes a big class drop from open $5,000 company, a level at which he finished a close third two starts back. Though he has not won in eighteen starts at Hawthorne, he has hit the board six times there, and has six wins at the six-furlong distance. He races for the first time in about three months, but for a trainer who sends some bombs home in that circumstance (11% wins, +$1.39 ROI). Beyond that, De Green Light appeals the most given the near-inside draw and the hot rider in Vicente Gudiel. He has not won in a long time, and may be more attractive for undersides, but does take a class drop. Likely favourite Salty Ruler is suspicious here. His form suggests he should be able to beat this crowd, but a short price on a horse dropping after a win against $5,000 company just last week looks hard to take.