Heading into the second month of the Hawthorne meet, the weather has gotten warmer. The rail has gotten a bit less golden than it was earlier in the meet: it is by no means dead, and not a bad place to be, but it is not the magic panacea it seemed two or three weeks ago. The card has a couple of contentious looking maiden races, and ends with a pair of interesting races with bigger fields.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the card!
Race 1: $12,500 claiming, N2L, three-year-olds and up, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt
Selections: Griffin the Great (2), W B and Me (5), Cheroben (3)
This race has no speed whatsoever, and the only one in the field who has shown much desire to be anywhere near it is Griffin the Great. He should take up the front early, and if he can slow down and dictate the pace, he should be well set. He won at two turns over the dirt two back, and his trainer Emmagene Schwan has been surprisingly hot this meet. W B and Me drops to his lowest class level yet, and gets Tim Thornton in the irons. He was not too far off the pace in his maiden win, and though he faltered in two starts over fast dirt at other tracks, they were his first two career starts and against much tougher. Those two are the only ones in this field of five who appeal on the win end, but Cheroben looks a solid key on the underside for an exacta or trifecta play. He comes in second off the lay, and finished second against similar last out. Though the lack of speed will not help this closer, he has shown the ability to hit the board by closing into slow fractions.
Race 2: $17,500 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Lubbers Run (6), Fear the Clouds (4), Precious Abbey (5)
Lubbers Run returns for the first time since her career debut last June, and drops in for a tag for the first time. If she looks good in the paddock, she has a lot of appeal here: her dam has produced three winners, one of whom who won first out, and two who won second out. One of those second-out winners did so for Ray Tracy, who trains Lubbers Run. Fear the Clouds is another one in first off a long lay, and on The Drop from maiden special in her first three starts. Trainer Steve Manley wins at 23% dropping runners from maiden special to maiden claoming, and this one has a long worktab leading into this start. Precious Abbey has run in claimers before, but has been in special weight her last two starts. She was third last out — well beaten by winner Wildwood Silk, but only two and a half lengths out of second. Her speeds are sharp for this field, and she should benefit from the return to easier company.
Race 3: Maiden special weight ($22,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt
Selections: Chuggy (4), Chu Chu Johnnie (5), Stealthy Traveler (6)
This race bears a lot of similarity to the race from which Chuggy, Chu Chu Johnnie, and Eight Gauge all come; it is not the toughest maiden special weight on earth. In a field without any great options, Chuggy has the most upside. He is bred well for two turns, and has hit the board in both of his two-turn starts. He reverts to rider Constantino Roman, who got him home second over the summer on the Arlington grass. Chu Chu Johnnie finished second against similar last out, and comes in here second off the lay. Trainer John Haran and rider Santo Sanjur have not had a win together this meet, but have hit the board in six out of their seven starts. Stealthy Traveler steps up from the claiming ranks, but has never tried the dirt against a field this soft. He ships in from Turfway for trainer Byron Hughes, who wins with 18% of his shippers. His speeds are sharp for the field, and he gets the blazing hot Vicente Gudiel aboard.
Race 4: $5,000 claiming, N3L, three-year-olds and up, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt
Selections: Faithful Gift (4), M J Seeker (6), W W Distinction (2)
Whereintheworld scratched, dropping the field to five. Still, scratch or no scratch, there is very little in the way of early pace in this race: basically, just Faithful Gift and M J Seeker. Faithful Gift gets a switch to rider Vicente Gudiel, and should strike the front in this bunch. He was flat against similar last out, but should be fitter second off the lay. M J Seeker has finished second in three of his last four races, including once against open $5,000 company. Last out he set the pace, gamely kept on despite being confronted from all sides, and held on to finish second behind rail-running In Red’s Honor on a day when the rail could not have been more golden. Santo Sanjur returns to the irons. W W Distinction will not be helped by the lack of pace in this race, but fires frequently enough into relatively slow fractions to make him likely to hit the board. With a 36-2-13-3 career line, W W Distinction is one of the most reliable undersides-of-exotics horses that Chicago racing has to offer.
Race 5: $5,000 claiming, non-winners of two races since April 21 OR N4L, four-year-olds and up, five and a half furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Fast Alice (3), Wildcat Devil (1), Supersambdancing (2)
There is a lot of early speed in this race, which should set up well for the late-running Fast Alice to mow them all down late. She closed like a freight train last out after being bumped and running into trouble, and still managed to be beaten just a head. She should have an even better setup here. Wildcat Devil got loose on the lead last out after bumping the gate, and though she faltered to finish fifth, he was beaten just three quarters of a length all told. Here she cuts back from six furlongs to five and a half, which his her best distance by far. Supersambdancing should be stalking off the bunch on the front, and will have first run if they tire. She has won both starts at this five and a half furlong distance, and her form looks good enough to contend even though she faces tougher than the N3L types she beat last out. Aeropagus (6) deserves a note. Though she looks like the speed of the speed on paper, she has also shown a consistent inability to perform well or even get the lead from an outside gate. That 6 post hurts; she will be better suited to perform well another day when she gets a better draw.
Race 6: Allowance ($23,100 purse), non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, three-year-olds and up, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt
Selections: Red Warrior (5), Showbiz Is My Biz (2), Wildwoodsgreatest (1)
With Wildwoodsgreatest, Marty Who, and possibly Showbiz Is My Biz showing early speed, the pace should set up nicely for the late-running Red Warrior. He was slow out of the gate, lagged behind early, and yet closed into slow fractions to destroy a field of overmatched maidens. That was his first try going two turns on dirt; he does that again today. These horses are better, but the pace should set up better for him as well. He gets Vicente Gudiel back in the irons from that maiden victory. Showbiz Is My Biz was well beaten against similar last out, but should be fitter second off the lay. He is fast enough to gun to the lead if he needs, though she showed in his win against state-bred allowance foes three starts back that he can sit just off and win a race. The poor results in his last two starts against open N1X types are a little worrisome, but the pace should be good enough to give him a chance here. Rail-drawn Wildwoodsgreatest will have a fight on the front end, but defeated $25,000 beaten company last out at two turns while being hounded all the way through. He can get down and dirty on a contested lead, and slug out a good race. He races for leading trainer Scott Becker, and gets Chris Emigh back in the irons. Wildwoodsgreatest broke his maiden with Emigh aboard last summer.
Race 7: Starter optional claiming, starters for a claiming price of $7,500 or less in 2014-2015 OR claiming price $18,000, four-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Spooky Vision (2), Son of Pearl (6), Half Foxy (1)
Spooky Vision comes in second off the lay, and faces significantly easier than the likes of Exquisite Lady, Chatito, and Jazzy Sun. With Half Foxy and Rocket Professor almost certain to send, and Paper Maker and Son of Pearl possible to provide pressure, Spooky Vision will have no shortage of pace to attack late. His speeds from last meet are strong for this group, and three of his four career wins have come in just six starts at Hawthorne. Son of Pearl loves this distance, sporting at 16-6-2-2 career line at six panels. It is his first race back from a winter lay, but he has fired first off a layoff before, and trainer Scott Becker wins a quarter of the time with runners off similarly-long lays. He has the versatility to either send or stalk, leaving a good chance that he can avoid getting embroiled in a speed duel. He also gets Chris Emigh back in the irons; Emigh rode him to three wins at last fall’s Hawthorne meet. Half Foxy drew the rail, and will probably end up the speed of the speed. Though Rocket Professor will dog him up there, he can save ground on the rail, and has shown in previous races that he can survive a protracted speed battle. He comes in second off the lay for trainer Roger Brueggemann, and has a sparkling 16-4-5-2 line at the distance.
Race 8: Allowance (purse $23,100), Illinois-bred, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, three-year-olds and up, six and a half furlongs over the dirt
Selections: Even Fever (9), Shanghai Red (5), Armando’s Star (7)
The key to this race is what Try Arguing Harder will do, since he is a speed horse who showed another dimension last out. With the rider change to Tim Thornton, it seems more likely that he will send, leading to a pressured pace between him and Armando’s Star. In that case, it should set up well for a stalking type like Even Fever. Even Fever showed two back that he could run well from an outside gate, and finished a good second last out behind Gyp Rope, who rode a gold rail to victory. He should have one of the first runs at the front, and is fast enough to get there against these. Shanghai Red runs for the first time this meet for trainer Scott Becker, who wins at 25% off of those sorts of lays. His speeds are solid, and he should be another who should stalk off the leaders and get an early run if the frontrunners tire. He loves the Hawthorne track, having hit the board in nine of ten starts over it. On the other hand, if Try Arguing Harder does not try to send, Armando’s Star looks tough. Even though he is a three-year-old facing older company for the first time, he has emerged as one of the best in the state-bred sophomore division. He has gamely handled pace pressure in both of his starts at age three, and his performance last out was franked when Junior Benny won a tough three-year-old allowance yesterday. Despite the age difference, if no one pressures him on the front, he will fight tooth and nail to hold off anyone who tries to run at him late.
Race 9: $4,000 claiming, non-winners of two races in 2014-2015 OR non-winners of a race since April 21, four-year-olds and up, six and a half furlongs over the dirt
Selections: Grand Procession (3), De Green Light (8), Sacred Gift (7)
This race drew a field of eight, but there is very little speed among them. De Green Light looks like the class of the speed, but has been so good at finding ways not to win races that he will require a close look at the tote board. There is a chance for a decent price on him with all the money likely to go on a class-dropping Sacred Gift, but the fact that he has not won a race since September of 2013 gives a bit of pause. The last race tends to be a longshot special; in light of that, consider Grand Procession as an alternative at a bomb price. He drops a bit in class here, and will almost certainly be the longest shot on the board. Grand Procession does his best work from the lead, and his early pace figures are typically enough to get the front early against this paceless bunch. This will be his first start for the Leo Rodriguez barn, giving him at least some chance to improve if Rodriguez is a good fit for him. If no one pressures Grand Procession too much early, he could blow up the tote. Finally, Sacred Gift does demand some respect. He faces a group that is by far the easiest he has ever seen, and his speeds are very good for this group. The lack of pace is the biggest question, since he is an off-pace type in a group without much early pace. Still, his class and speed make him a defensive must-use in any multi-race covering the finale.