The Hawthorne stakes calendar rolls on this Saturday with the feature event for Illinois-bred juvenile fillies: the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante. The race, instilled in 1983 as the Illinois’ Breeders’ Debutante, has carried the name of the name of longtime Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation (ITBOF) board member Pat Whitworth (1936-2011) since 2003. This year’s edition of the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante drew a field of just six for a share of a $50,000 purse — all six return from the Showtime Deb Stakes last month, and almost oddly for an Illinois-bred two-year-old stakes, all six entrants have broken their maidens.
Though Showtime Deb winner RICHIESLILWILDCAT has been instilled as the 2/5 morning line favourite, race history is not on her side. In the 34 previous runnings of the Illinois Debutante, only one horse has parlayed a Showtime Deb victory into top honours in the two-turn race: Class Break, who swept the pair for trainer Wayne Catalano in 2011. In a sense, it’s ironic that Showtime Deb winners have so rarely won the Debutante — after all, Showtime Deb herself won this race in 1988.