Hawthorne Derby Day: full-card picks and analysis

Today is the first stakes day of the Hawthorne meet: Hawthorne Derby day!  That main event is a Grade III race for three-year-olds going nine furlongs on the grass, and a competitive field of twelve will see the starter.  In addition to the main event the card features eight more races, including a pair of competitive allowance contests.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the card!

Race 1: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt, 2:10pm CDT

Selections:  Dani Nikki (7), Stef and Me (4), Ouiser (1)

Dani Nikki is a strong threat to wire this field, given how far off form Hawkeye Honey and Zumba It (the other possible speeds) are right now.  She drops in from open $8,000 company into here, and has shown form over the Hawthorne main (20-4-3-2) and the distance (22-7-5-1).  Stef and Me does not have the early zip to go with Dani Nikki early, but can win from a stalking place.  Last out she made an ambitious attempt against stat-bred allowance company, but she right-classes here.  She has two wins at similar distances, and what she showed this summer aginast claiming company should put her as a threat here.  Should speeds like Hawkeye Honey or Zumba It wake up and take it to Dani Nikki early, rail-drawn Ouiser looks the most likely beneficiary.  She has a win at her only try at this distance, and reverts to rider Juan Molina, who has had a solid beginning to his Hawthorne meet.  She is the in-form Fairmount shipper.

Race 2: $17,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, five furlongs on the turf, 2:40pm CDT

Selections:  Viking (8), Exchanging Blows (1), Sea Treaty (6)

With some possibility of a pace battle involvingExchanging Blows, Hawk’s Nest, and Rikco Man, Viking could benefit at a nice price.  He has not raced since Jun e, but he drops to the lowest level of his career by far.  Trainer Robert Dobbs, Jr. can win at a price with winners off these long lays (+$4.94 ROI with runners off 90+ day lays) as well as with runners making their first start for his barn (+$3.61 ROI).  He also gets a switch to rider Jerome Lermyte, who has been riding off-pace types well.  If any of the speed survives, it will most likely be Exchanging Blows.  Though he takes a rise in class here, there is enough of a chance that Hawk’s Nest might be rusty, or Rikco Man might be too slow, and Exchanging Blows can just run them off their feet.  Trainer Larry Rivelli does well with these big class rises, and this seems to be another well-placed runner.  Sea Treaty faltered last out over yielding grass, but today he will get the firm going he prefers.  He has not won in a long time, but has a good string of close finishes going dash distances over firmer ground.  He also should be well placed to get first run at the speed.  Though he takes a class rise here, he should be a good enough price to make the upside worth it.

Race 3: $12,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six and a half furlongs on the dirt, 3:10pm CDT

Selections:  Wild About You (1), Bad Behavior (4), Arcade (3)

Wild About You should get some pace to attack with Bad Behavior, Nice Tune, and Van Lier all in the field.  He takes a drop in class from allowance company, and his speeds compare well with the company he faces today.  He also takes the blinkers off; his better recent races have come without blinkers.  This will be his first time trying dirt, a surface on which Milwaukee Brew babies can do pretty well.  If speed survives, Bad Behavior should be the one of that contingent to prevail since he has shown the ability to hit the board on a contested pace.  He gets a rider change to Chris Emigh, who has been firing at 22% this Hawthorne meet, and should find this company to be a bit softer than what he saw at Canterbury.  Arcade had been struggling a bit, but showed improvement last out on the return to dirt, and with being placed a bit closer to the pace.  Julio Felix, who rode him last out, has the call again today.  Though Arcade only has one win in sixteen starts, it did come in one of just two tries over this six and a half furlong trip.

One worth taking a stand against, at least at the likely price, is Nice Tune (8).  His best threatens, but he is completely unproven without an easy lead.  With Bad Behavior almost certain to take it to him, and Van Lier possible to do so as well, Nice Tune will not get that.  He is lightly raced enough to bet at a longer price that he could be versatile, but something close to his 3/1 morning line would not be that price.  He would have to drift past 5/1 before he became interesting.

Race 4: Allowance ($21,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state bred allowance OR N2L, five furlongs on the turf, 3:40pm CDT

Selections: Yes It’s Persia (5), Keeker (7), Fort Prada (8)

Yes It’s Persia has done most of his running on all-weather surfaces, but finished a solid third behind Curls In Place as a 27/1 bomb at Parx last out — running for a lot more money than she’s running for today, and doing so at five furlongs on the grass.  Her speeds are strong for the field, and she should be well set to sit a length or two behind the plethora of early speed in this field, and mow them down late.  It is also interesting to see the move to the Nick Caruso barn, and to see Caruso ship horses here.  He is a sharp trainer at Presque, sharp enough to give a shot to here.  Keeker finished second against state-bred allowance company last out, and steps up to open allowance types today.  She has been consistent through the summer on polytrack, and has showed enough ratability that she could avoid getting burned early here.  She also goes first-time Lasix, and furst-time grass.  Though it is anyone’s guess whether her poly form will translate to the dirt, there is enough turf lurking in her pedigree to suggest it might, and she should be a good enough price to take the gamble.  Fort Prada looks the one to beat on paper, but her second-itis is a question.  She has five seconds in eight starts at this distance, including a second in her only start at Hawthorne.  She will have plenty to close into, and gets a switch to rider Jerome Lermyte (who has been particularly live with trainer Chris Block in recent months).  On paper, she should beat this field, but the price makes her best used as an underneath key, or possibly (budget withstanding) a defensive cover in multis.

Race 5: $4,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014-2015 OR non-winners of a race since October 17, 2014, six and a half furlongs on the turf, 4:10pm CDT

Selections:  Valley Fog (8), Jesuit Warrior (6), My Jokester (1 – underneath only)

This is a bit of an “ALL Button” race, so why not go for a price?  Valley Fog, the 15/1 longest shot on the morning line, has never missed the board in three starts at this distance, and is taking a little drop in class here.  Constantino Roman has had a solid beginning to the Hawthorne meet, and this horse won two starts back over the dirt at Fairmount.  He can win from right on the front end or just off, helpful since Jesuit Warrior and Crypto Gulch have also shown some early speed.  Jesuit Warrior won last out over the polytrack, but also has some dirt form, and a win at this six and a half furlong distance.  He has been a consistent factor lately, having hit the board in five of his last six starts.   The worry is that he may regress after his last start, but given his recent consistency, it is worth taking the shot that he will not.  My Jokester is the ultimate underneath key: solid speeds for the field, consistently hitting the board against similar company, but 55-3-12-10 on his career, and 11-0-3-2 at Hawthorne.  My Jokester fits perfectly in class, but does not like to win horse races all that much.  He will be underlaid on top – don’t bother covering him there, but key him second and third in intra-race exotics.

Race 6: Allowance ($21,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, 4:40pm CDT

Selections:  Spark Kit (3), Chadwick (5), Kinsmanor (2)

Spark Kit has been in solid form lately, having hit the board in six of his last seven.  The only time he missed was in a stakes at Ellis, and the winner there (Key to Power) turned around and won another stakes at Arlington in his next start.  Though Love You Mon has also shown speed, Spark Kit is fast enough to possibly outgun him, and versatile enough to sit off if he needs.  Love You Mon has been in pretty good form recently, but his 5-0-0-0 record on the Hawthorne grass is bad enough to make Spark Kit far more attractive among the front end brigade.  Chadwick comes into this race in solid form against state-bred allowance company, and has shown the ability to rally into paces that are less than cracking.  The stretch out from a mile should help him.  Though he has missed the board in both attempts at a mile and a sixteenth, he has won at a mile and an eighth, and he should improve her assuming Jose Valdivia does not sit him far back to close from the clouds.  Lightly raced Kinsmanor comes into this race second off a yearlong lay.  Kinsmanor beat open maiden special weight company at a flat mile in his first start off that layoff, and trainer Chris Block wins with last-out maiden winners 22% of the time.  He has a sharp work since that last race, as well.  He will have to take a step up from his last race to win here, but at anything near his morning line, he has the upside to justify using him.

Race 7: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, 5:10pm CDT

Selections: Sonorous Voice (1), Poker Player (8), Ascendancy (6 – underneath only)

Inside speed has been a solid proposition in dirt routes this meet, and Sonorous Voice has that here.  Last out he did not get anywhere near the front, but this horse should be the speed of the speed in this group.  Dark Humorista has speed but no dirt form, and though Run for Mummy is in form, he does not have quite the early zip of his stablemate Sonorous Voice.  He has a win and a second in four starts at this distance, and rider Carlos Montalvo has had a solid start to the Hawthorne meet.  Poker Player has been on the shelf since being claimed by Tammy Domenosky, and takes a huge drop in class.  He makes the kitchen sink of changes here: new trainer (who wins at 22% first off the claim), new rider (Victor Santiago, who fires at 25% going long), and first time on fast dirt (to the approval of @pmayjr).  Perhaps these changes stick.  Ascendancy has solid versatility of pace, always a good thing in such a low-level race.  Though he only has two wins in 38 career starts, he has another 20 money finishes, including 6-11 in the money this year.  Bet on his consistency underneath, just don’t bet him to win.

Race 8: Hawthorne Derby (GIII), three year olds, one and one eighth miles on the turf, post time 5:40pm CDT

Selections:  Wireless Future (1), Lucky Lindy (4), Granny’s Kitten (6)

Longshot:  Chip Leader (12)

My detailed analysis of the Hawthorne Derby is over at ShapperDaCapper, in the latest Chicago Railbird.  My original second selection was One Go All Go, but he scratched on race day.  With him out of the field, Flashy Jewel draws in, and should be part of the pace.  Even though he has a win at the race distance, this is deeper water than the Manitoba Derby was, and turf instead of dirt.  Instead, it’s Granny’s Kitten who moves into the picture.  He has a win — wire to wire — over the Churchill grass, in a contested pace scenario.  Perhaps he sends.  He also has the versatility to come from off, and showed last out in the Centaur that he is coming back into form.  He is one to watch in the paddock — he finished dead last in the Secretariat, but that was after being very washy in the paddock.  If he looks good, though, toss him in.

Race 9: $4,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014-2015 OR non-winners of a race since October 17, 2014, six and a half furlongs over the dirt

Selections:  Jack N John (4), Name Dropper (2), Bank Account (3)

Jack N John is the in-form Fairmount shipper.  Though his form on the north side of the state is not the most consistent, he does have two wins over the Hawthorne dirt, and solid recent speeds.  He could also get some pace to close into, should the likes of Name Dropper, Hurricane Bay, or U Step Aside decide to take it to Bank Account on the front end.  Though he was up for a $4,000 tag last out, he beat an allowance-optional field at Fairmount while up for that tag.  No one is protected here.  Name Dropper is a Belterra shipper.  Though Belterra form does not typically hold here, he has finished in the money in seven of ten starts here at Hawthorne.  He was also second in his only start at the distance, two back at Belterra.  His recent speeds are in range of this field, and the field is, quite frankly, weak enough to make a Belterra shipper look competitive.  For the third slot, it was a close decision between Bank Account and U Step Aside (8).  U Step Aside has a bit more trustworthy form, but screams undersides type (55-4-7-13 lifetime, 27-1-4-8 on the Hawthorne dirt).  Bank Account has been dropping down the class ladder, but at least has a bit more tendency to win races, and is still fast enough early to threaten to wire.  He changes trainers, gets a switch to the sharp Jose Valdivia, Jr., and goes back to dirt.  This could wake him up.

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