There are a few guys stepping out from their last races in Chicago to new surroundings, some garnering more attention than others. Since all three last started at Hawthorne… why wouldn’t it get my interest?
On a national scale, with the Preakness just over a week away there are two exiting the Illinois Derby with different profiles in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Many view Claiborne/Dilschnieder charge Departing to be the main threat to the Derby winner in the Preakness. I realize that after watching Orb take it to a group of 18 like that without really taking a deep breath one might seek a new face… but think about the last two groups faced by them both. While I think the Illinois Derby field assembled filled the bill of a grade three race, they weren’t the Kentucky Derby cavalry charge. Both were clearly best in each contest, but who seems to have progressed more? It’s no secret that Departing has a long career in front of him and that no one race is a prized target yet.
Orb has done every single thing right this spring, Departing has hit a bump along the way. Departing was a man among boys in Illinois though and did seem a bit more of a polished racehorse at Hawthorne. The indoor paddock and all of the activity can get to a horse (especially a young horse), but he displayed his class throughout the process and showed great tractability throughout. Sometimes the unique characteristics of Hawthorne can get to an inexperienced jockey over it, but both Departing and Brian Hernandez handled it like they’d ran over it a million times.
His versatility will serve him well in Baltimore, that I can say. Beating Orb? He seems to be just as controllable, and beating Orb at his own game is not working at the moment.
The other name rumored to be taking the Baltimore route through his three year old year is Jim Tafel’s colt Street Spice. Street Spice ran fifth in the aforementioned Illinois Derby, just a couple of lengths behind his runner-up stablemate Fordubai. The duo got stuck in Chicago this winter but surely would have made some noise in the Derby prep season if they’d tried it.
Greg Geier trains them both and has opted to send the former on to the Preakness. Prior to the IL Derby, when asked about the pair he commented that Fordubai is the more mentally settled of the two and that he wins the workout battle. However, both have run in the same spots throughout their career, with Street Spice even bettering Fordubai in their previous meeting at Hawthorne. He is a bit of a goofball as evidenced in some of his past races, converse to the aforementioned runners. Even in a five horse field Street Spice managed to get in trouble, trying to rally up the rail into a horse that had no intention of letting him through. He probably would have defeated Bells Big Bernie that day given a clean trip… but if a short field presents problems how will he handle the Preakness? Don’t count Street Spice out of the running by any means but if he indeed goes in the second leg of the crown look for an outside draw to keep him out of trouble.
Newly turned local Ask Eddy hasn’t had an easy go of it lifetime competition wise, but looks like a great prospect for the Canterbury Racing Club due to his recent performances. He waited a touch over a year between wins but kept some nice company along the way. The names that show up in his past performances are machines when it comes to racing in Stickney – Summer’s Empire (8 time winner), Big Bruin (5 time winner) Mastman (5 time winner), Bobby Sands (4 time winner), etc.
The open claimers at Hawthorne this spring were by far the most competitive of the races no matter what the price tag. While ‘Eddy tested allowance foes and stakes company over the past couple of years, he’s done most of his damage against sellers and returned consistently last fall. His speed was not as effective over the winter track as it was this spring, picking up a third and a win for his former connections. He came back a little quick for his start on April 7 and got run off his feet by speedy Mastman.
What happened last time? Got me. He tracked a slightly quicker pace but happily coughed it up down the lane. He’s no spring chicken so obviously there are a few kinks to iron out, but a little rest, TLC and a track kind to front runners may be just what the doctor ordered.
Best of luck to all three from this handicapper, and good luck to you in your wagering endeavors involving these guys from Chi-Town!
This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 will mark her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.