Hawthorne full-card selections and analysis: 12.19.15

Winter weather has arrived in Chicago…sort of.  The mercury is hovering just below freezing, the infield pond has begun to ice over, and the horses are enjoying the cooler temperatures (even if most of the humans might not be).  Today’s racing at Hawthorne features a pair of juvenile races, a few allowances, and some well-subscribed (and quite tricky) claiming races to close out the day.

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

Race 1: 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 dirt, post time 12:50pm CST

Selections:  Sassy Moe (3), Street Fighting (6), Malibu Wood (1)

Sassy Moe should get a bit of speed to chase, since Malibu Wood, Back Lite, and Street Fighting all have some.  Yet, he will not be too far off the pace, good since this race only drew six.  This will be his fourth try against winners, but he has hit the board in all three tries versus winners, suggesting he has the class and speed to contend.  He is also third off the lay for trainer Clay Brinson, who is striking at 22% this meet.  Street Fighting beat $20K beaten claiming company two starts back, and was third at this level last out.  Though that win tow back was on turf, he does have a win on dirt as well, and a 5-1-1-2 line at this distance.  Tim Thornton returns to the irons from his last two races, and he has the versatility to either strike the front or rally from midpack.  If the front becomes a game of chicken, Malibu Wood could wire the field at long odds.  He was well beaten last out at this level, but that was in the slop.  In two other tries going a similar trip over fast dirt, he demolished the field.  Class is the question, as both of those efforts came at Fort Erie — but both were in protected company there.  He is worth a swing at a price on fast dirt.

Race 2: $17,500 maiden claiming, two-year-olds, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:20pm CST

Selections:  Stature (5), River Place (2), At the Grande (7)

Stature goes first-time blinkers-on for a trainer who has won two of his last four in that circumstance (at prices!), with three of the four in the money.  The trainer change looks to be a name-only situation — the ownership is the same, but previous trainer Moises Yanez has flown south for the winter.  With Santo Sanjur riding better lately, and his speed figures on a solid upward trend, Stature appeals at a price.  River Place was a well-beaten fourth against similar last out, but gets a switch to trainer Jim DiVito’s “A” rider, Tim Thornton.  DiVito and Thornton have won four of their last seven (with a +$2.09 ROI), and hit the board with five of those seven.  DiVito strikes 22% of the time with two-year-olds, and 20% in general with maiden claimers.  Perhaps the switch to the “A” rider is what this fourth-time starter needs to wake up.  At the Grande was second at this level last out, and is the morning line favourite.  Taking chalk on him is hard here, but any performance in line with his previous dirt races makes him competitive here.

Race 3: Allowance optional claiming ($21,000 purse), two-year-old fillies, non-winners of a race other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L OR claiming price $75,000, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt, post time 1:50pm CST

Selections:  Go Lady Jay (1), Bonita Cat (6), Applique (2)

This race drew a well-matched field of six juvenile fillies — nobody here is without a shot.  That said, Go Lady Jay is a threat to wire this field.  She is the speed of the speed, and showed that in both of her wins she could duel early and get away late.  She drops in class from an allowance on Stars of Tomorrow II day at Churchill last out, a race in which she did not get the lead.  Though she has never gone two turns, the underside of her pedigree (an Include mare) suggests she could handle a route of gorumd.  Finally, rider Jesse Lantz has been doing well with trainer Bradlee Rainwater — in eight starts over the last two months, they have three wins (at a +$2.93 ROI) and five money finishes.  Bonita Cat will be the shorter priced of trainer Michael Campbell’s entries, but the fact that Joel Campbell ships down does stand out.  Campbell was aboard for Bonita Cat’s debut at Hawthorne, when she stalked, pounced, and crushed a MSW field at first asking.  The return to that track, plus the class drop from Churchill, should bring improvement.  This will be her first start going two turns, but the breeding (Tale of the Cat out of an Empire Maker mare) suggests she will get there.  Finally, she goes blinkers-on.  Applique has done her best work going two turns on turf.  She was a well-beaten sixth on a washed-off race at Churchill last out, her dirt debut.  However, that was just at one turn, against tougher company.  She gets first-time Lasix here, and should be rallying late if the likes of Discreet Charm or Prairie Chick get locked up with Go Lady Jay early.

Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races since June 19 OR N4L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 2:20pm CST

Selections:  Angel Talk (5), Surf Cast (2), Gyp Rope (7)

Angel Talk loves Hawthorne, with ten wins and another 13 money finishes on the course, and has an 11-3-2-2 line in main-track dashes.  He has been in the money in twelve of fourteen starts this year, and finished second against open $5,000 company last time out.  This horse can run a strong race from anywhere in the pack; expect him to rally from a few lengths off here, given how much speed this race drew.  Surf Cast drops in from facing significantly tougher company (open $12,500 and open $8,000) in his last few starts.  Trainer Chris Dorris has been hot all meet, and he gets a switch to Victor Santiago, Dorris’s “A” rider.  His stalking to midpack type should keep him out of the battle for the lead, and he does have back form at both Hawthorne and this distance.  Gyp Rope drops here from a well-beaten third last out in open $8,000 company.  Three of his five wins have come over the main dirt course, and he has shown form at dash distances over both turf and polytrack.  This will be his first dirt dash, but it should fit.  In terms of pace, he has the versatility to rally from off the pace, or to send to the front if no one else wants the lead.  Expect the former here, with all the other speed.

Race 5: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014-2015, claiming races for $4,000 or less not considered for eligibility, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt, post time 2:50pm CST

Selections:  Military Action (6), Two Lions (5), Limeshare (2)

The best horses on paper here are the two from Frank Kirby’s barn: Two Lions and Limeshare.  Two Lions has never won on dirt, but has four seconds and a third in ten starts over fast dirt, all of which have been at Hawthorne.  He was second behind significantly tougher stuff last out, albeit on the grass.  He also gets top rider Chris Emigh back in the irons.  Pacewise, if Devil and a Half gets contention from Valley Fog or Sonorous Voice, or even just packs it in (as he is wont to do), Two Lions should be rallying.  Limeshare, should be rallying, as well, and does have a bit more dirt form to speak of.  He has four wins and another 16 money finishes at similar distances, including on-the-board finishes in all three tries over the Hawthorne main.  However, Two Lions and Limeshare have the same problem — they are chalky horses with serious second-itis.  This makes it worth looking for a price on top, and Military Action fits the bill.  He is a snug condition book fit.  He has two wins over 2014-2015, but under the claiming threshold.  He also crossed the wire first in a $5,000 N1Y at Indiana Grand this summer, though he was taken down to second.  In short, He does not have a problem with wanting to cross the wire first.  He does have two wins at this distance, and some back races that do contend with this set.  Finally, he gets a change to Victor Santiago, a 21% winner going a route of ground.

Race 6: Allowance, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, non-winners of $9,800 once OR non-winners of a state-bred race other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 3:20pm CST

Selections:  Scatladybdancing (4), Nook (2), Didaraj (1)

For my full analysis, read the latest Chicago Railbird.

Bylia, as enumerated on Chicago Railbird, remains eminently beatable chalk.

Dennie’s Dream, the original top selection, did scratch the day of the race.  With that, the only speed left in the race is Didaraj, and that alone makes her worth tossing in at a bomb price.  She is not exactly a fast horse, but she has no shortage of early speed, and even rated a bit in her maiden win.  Should neither Nook nor Scatladybdancing push her too hard early, perhaps the speed-friendly cold-weather track helps her out.  Keep an eye on how the track is playing — but if speed is holding nicely, the scratch helps Didaraj a ton, so toss that bomb on your tickets.

Race 7: $5,00 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of a race since June 19, claiming races for $4,000 or less not considered for eligibility, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 3:50pm CST

Selections:  Coolride (4), August Day (8), Dollar Doblado (1)

Coolride was second at this level and distance two back, and also second against $4,000 beaten types at six and a half furlongs last out.  Rider Carlos Montalvo returns from both of those races.  He should be able to set up just off the speedy types, and get first run.  If a speedy type survives, August Day looks like the one.  He doe shis best work on the front end, but is able to hang on when there is a fight on the front.  He also appeals on condition book grounds: he is one of only two in this race (the other being Dezip) who has won since June 19.  He romped against $4,000 N1Y types at Canterbury in August.  He does have a pair of wins at Hawthorne, and four wins (and ten more money finishes) at the distance.  His humans also appeal: trainer Percy Scherbenske has a 21% win rate this meet, and he gets a switch to meet-leading jockey Chris Emigh.  Dollar Doblado runs for the always potent team of trainer Michael Reavis and rider Tim Thornton.  He drops in from $5,000 beaten company last out, and was third in that race.  He does have a win and a second in three starts at this distance, and an 11-3-1-4 line over the Hawthorne main.  The biggest question is the pace, since there is a lot of speed in this race.  Still, he showed some fight in his N2L victory, and stayed around to finish fourth beaten only a length for all of it after not getting the lead two starts back.

Race 8: $6,250 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 4:20pm CST

Selections:  Yes It’s Wild (12), Sweet Springs Road (8), W W Star (11)

Yes It’s Wild has very solid humans behind him: trainer Tammy Domenosky and rider Tim Thornton, a pair who has won three of their last nine (for a positive ROI), with seven of those nine in the money.  She was fifth against tougher company last time out, but has back form at Canterbury that makes her well competitive with this field.  Though she is one of several horses who have done their better work near the front, her maiden win suggests she can succeed.  There, going the same six-furlong distance as today, she survived a speed duel, drew away, and won by daylight.  Sweet Springs Road tries dirt for the first time here.  She is out of a Dynaformer mare underneath, but sire Cashel Castle ran well on dirt, and is a versatile sire with respect to surface.  Sweet Spring Road, like Yes It’s Wild, is a speedy type, but also one who has shown success on a contested pace.  She drops to her lowest class level yet, and her best should contend here.  W W Star has fired a few clunkers recently, but takes the blinkers back off here, and makes her first start for trainer Patti Miller.  Miller is firing at a solid 17% this meet.  Even though W W Star is out of Scott Becker’s barn, regular jockey Chris Emigh follows this filly to her new barn, a positive sign.  Her only start at this distance over dirt was against significantly harder at Oaklawn, making her worth another shot at the flat six panels.  Her off-pace running style should help, too: if all the pace collapses, W W Star likely gets a run on them in time to make an impact.

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