Whisper to Curlin (Whisperifyoudare, by Red Ransom) has long been one of my favourite Curlin babies. It was inevitable…Palace Malice was why I started following Curlin babies in the first place, and there’s no Curlin baby so closely related to him as Whisper to Curlin. Whisperifyoudare, his dam, is Palace Malice’s second dam.
Yesterday I went out to Hawthorne. Before the races, I got the chance to meet trainers Angie Coleman and Rob Rittof, talk a bit about harness racing, and learn firsthand what it’s like to drive a Standardbred
Hawthorne’s spring meet draws to a close Saturday, with an eight-race card. With the forecast calling for rain, closing day looks like a great opportunity for those who enjoy playing slop monsters.
For those who like to chase carryovers, there are a couple. The $0.20 Pick Six, usually a jackpot wager, has a mandatory payout and a $3,047 carryover into closing day. The $0.20 Super High Five, also usually a jackpot, has a mandatory payout and a $1,901 carryover into the pool.
As the sun set over the clubhouse turn at Hawthorne on March 11, 2016, I remarked to myself that if Hawthorne were still running the Land of Lincoln Stakes, the sprint for Illinois-bred sophomores, I had my horse. Debut runner Cat’s Alley had just won an Illinois-bred maiden special weight in impressive and professional manner. The gelded son of Flower Alley took the early lead, relinquished it to Fast Punchnrichie, came back after that foe looked gone, and drew off to thrash older foes by daylight.
Alas, Hawthorne did not run the Land of Lincoln in 2016, so he did not return in that spot. I expected him to return in a one-other-than allowance, either state-bred or open, to test his mettle against winners. Perhaps, if he liked the polytrack, he could turn up in the Springfield Stakes across town in a few months?
Instead, he turned up three weeks later for a claiming tag.
Saturday was the biggest day of racing all spring at Hawthorne: the Grade 3 Illinois Derby was back, as were two stakes for older state-bred sprinters, the Third Chance Handicap and the Robert S. Molaro Handicap! The Illinois Derby marked the stakes debut of a promising — yet later-developing — three-year-old runner. The Molaro proved the exact opposite, the local return of a horse who has been a dependable stakes-quality sprinter for four seasons now. And, in the Third Chance, a mare who had been knocking on the door for a while finally annexed her first stakes.
The day’s action features three stakes races. The Grade 3 Illinois Derby, which drew a field of seven sophomores, is the day’s centerpoint. The card also includes a pair of six and a half furlong stakes races for Illinois-breds. The Robert S. Molaro Handicap, open to any Illinois-breds aged three and up, will pit Grade 3 winner Recount against eight state-bred foes. The Third Chance Handicap, its fillies’ and mares’ complement, drew a wide-open field of seven, including Illinois-bred stakes winner Go Lady Jay.
Saturday’s action has been drawn, and the contest races have been selected. The contest includes ten stakes races — all three from Hawthorne, and more action from coast to coast. Just a $10 donation to Galloping Out makes you eligible for the grand prize, a signed picture of War Emblem, the horse who parlayed an Illinois Derby win into Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins in 2002!
After a year off, the Illinois Derby (G3) will be run once again on Saturday, April 22. Over at Picks and Ponderings, I take a look at the three-year-olds you’re likely to see in the biggest race of the Hawthorne spring meet.