This year, the Sun Power Stakes was run for the first time since 2014. Leading into the hiatus, trainer Larry Rivelli had dominated the race, with wins by Rambling Richie in 2013 and Dom the Bomb in 2014. Three years hence, Rivelli picked up right where he left off, as Pass the Gravy rolled to an easy victory in Saturday’s running of the Sun Power Stakes.
I’m used to the Illinois foal report being my Christmas present. This year, the Department of Agriculture has released the 2017 report of foals born in Illinois earlier than usual. It’s come in time to be my (early!) birthday present! Here, I discuss a few things I noticed while reading it — and then, as always, my five foals to watch.
The stakes calendar continues at Hawthorne this week with the Sun Power Stakes, a six-furlong test for Illinois colts and geldings. It will be run this year for the first time since 2014, when Dom the Bomb romped to an easy 11 3/4 length victory. Dom the Bomb, trained by Larry Rivelli at the time, is a half-brother to last week’s Showtime Deb Stakes winner Richie’slilwildcat.
Like last week’s Showtime Deb Stakes, the purse is $100,000: $75,000 available to Illinois-foaled horses no matter where they were conceived, and another $25,000 available to horses in the top five who were also sired by Illinois stallions. Among the nine horses in the field, three qualify for that. The entrants owned by William Stiritz and trained by Scott Becker — CALEB’S HEIR, GHAALEB’S WINNER, and GITA’S LAD — are all by Stiritz’s Belleville, Illinois-based stallion Ghaaleb.
Trainer Larry Rivelli has been a force in Illinois-bred two-year-old stakes races in recent years, and much of that success has come from the progeny of the Five Star Day mare Richiesgirlgotgame. Richiesgirlgotgame started her racing career on fire for Rivelli and owner Richard Ravin. On debut she beat eventual Grade 1 winner Tiz Miz Sue in a maiden special weight, then followed that effort with a third-place finish in the Miss Shenandoah Stakes at Charles Town. Laid off for nine months after that outing, she returned in the claiming ranks. Though Rivelli and Ravin lost her for $10,000 in May of 2010, they got her back in September for $15,000. After racing her twice more, they retired and bred her.
Claiming her back and sending her to the breeding shed has paid rich dividends.
For the first time since 2014, Hawthorne will host the Showtime Deb Stakes: a six-furlong sprint for Illinois-bred juvenile fillies.
The race fills an important gap in the Illinois-bred stakes program, one that has existed since the Showtime Deb and the Sun Power (its colts’ and geldings’ complement, which will be revived next week) dropped off the stakes’ schedule: without them, there was no sprint stakes race for Illinois-bred two-year-olds. For Illinois-bred juveniles who are bred to do their best at one turn, or who still need to develop before showing their best at two, this gives them an opportunity to show their best against the best of their class.
I had assumed all year that it would be the easiest. After all, Breeders’ Cup is the big ending, and it’s the last poll of the year. Though Breeders’ Cup is not the last big racing week before the Eclipse Awards — let’s not sneeze at Thanksgiving weekend, with races like the Clark and the Cigar Mile — it’s the only one of this scale, and nothing between now and the end of the year comes quite to the level of a Derby undercard, Belmont undercard, or Travers Day.
Yet? It was the hardest. Though Breeders’ Cup answered a lot of questions in individual divisions, the fact that the Top Thoroughbred Poll requires a voter to rank the divisions against each other makes it more difficult. Most of my questions involved assessing not only what each horse did in their own division this year, but also how that stacks up against what horses in other divisions did. Even with a rather sharp limitation that I’ve chosen to apply, that of not using horses who have not faced older company at least once during the year, many of the rank judgments felt uncomfortably tight.
Here’s my final ballot, with short notes on my rationale.
I would never have expected Curlin’s first Breeders’ Cup winner (or any, for that matter…) to come in a two-year-old race. Not only did Curlin never race at two, but he has not emerged as a two-year-old sire so much as a sire of Classic horses and older horses.
Picks and Ponderings may physically be in San Diego this weekend, but we haven’t forgotten our roots.
The stakes season continues at Hawthorne this weekend with a pair of turf routes for Illinois-bred older horses. Previously, both the Buck’s Boy Handicap and the Illini Princess Handicap were fixtures of the fall stakes season at Hawthorne, though both were last run in 2014. In 2015, Hawthorne carded a pair of turf routes — but also allowed non-Illinois-bred horses who ran on the circuit recently to participate, and called those Illinois-preferred races the Cicero Handicap and the Stickney handicap instead. The 2016 fall meet elapsed without turf stakes, but with the recent release of Illinois Department of Agriculture funding, Hawthorne has reintroduced the series of state-bred stakes to the fall meet.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read our preview of tomorrow’s pair of turf stakes at Hawthorne, and let me know in the comments what you think!
Welcome to Day Two of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup! Picks and Ponderings previewed Friday’s four Breeders’ Cup races in a separate piece. Here, we look at Saturday’s nine Breeders’ Cup races, headlined by Arrogate’s attempt to join Tiznow among two-time winners of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The day features several links to the local circuit — many of which, to Arlington Million Day. Arlington Million (G1) winner Beach Patrol will attempt to win a third straight Grade 1 race in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and Secretariat Stakes (G1) winner Oscar Performance joins him in that field. Dacita’s victory in the Beverly D Stakes (G1) this summer earned her a bid in the Beverly D, and she will attempt to join Dank in the exclusive club of mares who have swept the Beverly D – Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf double.