Week 9 Road to Kentucky brings us to Hawthorne for the 51st running of the Illinois Derby. We also have two other bonus races today, the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby. The Wood Memorial features the return of War Pass after his inexplicable non-effort at Tampa Bay Downs, and the Santa Anita Derby features a rematch between El Gato Malo and Colonel John. Track condition at Hawthorne – fast.
Race 1: This was a Clm4000 for 4+ at 1m1/16. I selected Sapia Sika, a 5-1 ML horse that looks like possible lone speed on paper. The scratch of Bubba Boy should also help with the pace scenario here. The likely favorite is Top Bunk, an 11-year old gelding with 21 lifetime wins who was just claimed by Tomillo. The rider of Top Bunk’s previous three races, Thornton, moves to Sapia Sika for today’s race.
The Result: Sapia Sika got the lone “F” trip I was hoping for but faltered late and was collared by Last Samurai, a Tampa Bay shipper at 4-1 odds. No excuses for the frontrunner in this one. The ML favorite Top Bunk was dead on the board and didn’t fire at 2-1 odds. Right idea, wrong result in this one.
Maximum Points: Last Samurai 182Maximum Score: 182My Score: 64
Race 2: This was a MSW26K for Statebred 3+ at 1m1/16. I selected Saratoga Vicar, a layoff horse with two previous races at Hawthorne last fall. He ran a 55 Beyer as a 2-year old and needs to improve into the mid-60’s to contend today. He needs a strong pace in front of him as he is a rallying type. This looks like an evenly matched group.
The Result: The pace wasn’t strong but Saratoga Vicar surged late to win going away at 5/2 odds. The favorite, Carson City Dude, didn’t fire. Comelateleavearly ran second and Aka Lily’s Lad finished third.
Maximum Points: Saratoga Vicar 136Maximum Score: 318My Score: 200
Race 3: This was a Statebred Alw28000N1X for 3+ at 6f. I tried a longshot named Jaybird’s Miracle as he makes his second start off the layoff and shows a bullet 5f workout since his last start. His comment line for his last says “steadied turn” so I forgave that effort even though he was well back. He’s another rallying type. Gato’s Pirate should be the favorite based on his near miss last time out and top speed figure in the field. He has a tendency to run second, however.
The Result: I thought it looked good for Jaybird’s Miracle at the 16th pole but he missed by ¾ of a length and finished third at 9/2. Skating Sam was the winner at 7-1 odds and another longshot Master Commander finished second. The favorite was a lackluster fourth.
Maximum Points: Skating Sam 334Maximum Score: 652My Score: 250
Race 4: This was a Statebred HCP8000s for 4+ at 1m1/16th. My selection, Top of the Heap, was a late scratch so I will be getting the post-time favorite.
The Result: The post-time favorite was Devil in Excess and he ended up running second to Happiness, a front-running type recently claimed by Hector Magana. The first quarter was a very soft 25 seconds, allowing Happiness to finish strongly. E’ Carte’ finished third.
Maximum Points: Happiness 156Maximum Score: 808My Score: 302
Race 5: This was the Illinois Owners Handicap at 6f. I selected Distorted Groom, part of an entry owned and trained by Owen Rainwater. Distorted Groom hasn’t run since April 2007, but sports a series of strong workouts for his return. The horse to beat is Coach Jimi Lee, an 8-year old gelding with a bankroll of nearly 1 million dollars. He’s 4 for 4 lifetime at Hawthorne and 11 for 21 at the distance.
The Result: The entry fired big at 7/2 odds and ran 1-2 for Owen Rainwater. Mighty rule ran third. The favorite, Coach Jimi Lee, didn’t break well and never factored. It’s fair to say that Distorted Groom fired his “A” race off the layoff.
Maximum Points: Distorted Groom 238Maximum Score: 1,046My Score: 540
Race 6: This was the Meafara50K for 3yo fillies at 6f. I selected J Z Warrior from the Mott barn as she exits the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park. J Z Warrior is going to be the heavy favorite as she has two very fast sprint victories on her record, including a 10 length maiden breaker at Saratoga last July. She’s strictly the one to beat.
The Result: La Wildcat shook free and held on at 8-1 odds over J Z Warrior and Optimistic Sreva. That’s another longshot victory today for jockey Thornton as he also scored earlier today with Skating Sam. The favorite, J Z Warrior, closed furiously but missed by a nose at 4/5.
Maximum Points: La Wildcat 276Maximum Score: 1,322My Score: 594
Wood Memorial: This was the 84th running of the Wood Memorial for 3yo’s at 1m1/8th. I selected Texas Wildcatter, who got nipped in the fog last time out by Visionnaire. He deserves another chance in my view. The favorite is War Pass, exiting his non effort in the Tampa Bay Derby. I don’t like him but we’ll see if he bounces back. The other main contender is Court Vision who just finished 3rd in the Fountain of Youth and is trained by Bill Mott.
The Result: War Pass rebounded with a very nice effort as he set fast fractions on the front-end and just failed to last in the final strides. Tale of Ekati was the winner at 8-1, making his second start off the layoff after an even effort in the Louisiana Derby. Court Vision was up for third, but never threatened the top two despite the fast fractions. Texas Wildcatter was towards the front on the inside and backed out going into the turn.
Maximum Points: Tale of Ekati 578Maximum Score: 1,900My score: 594
Race 7: This was the 51st Running of the Illinois Derby for 3yo’s at 1m1/8th. I selected the rail horse Recapturetheglory, hoping for a pretty easy pace scenario as he should be on or near the lead. He broke his maiden at Hawthorne last fall and should be a square price today with undefeated Denis of Cork, Z Humor, and Atoned in the race. He’s moving turf to dirt and is an unknown quantity at this level.
The Result: Recapturetheglory broke sharply and scored a wire-to-wire victory at 15-1 odds. Golden Spikes chased and held for second and Z Humor finished third. Not a lot of movement from the favorite Denis of Cork as he failed to threaten. Recapturetheglory is a $215K purchase by Cherokee Run.
Maximum Points: Recapturetheglory 1,188Maximum Score: 3,088My Score: 1,782
Santa Anita Derby: This was the 71st running of the Santa Anita Derby for 3yo’s at 1m1/8th. I selected El Gato Malo, who was a close second to Colonel John in the Sham after a very slow early pace. Previously, he scored three huge victories on the synthetic surfaces in California. The pace should be much quicker today.
The Result: Colonel John surged late to get past Bob Black Jack and Coast Guard, with favored El Gato Malo finishing a non-threatening fifth. That should effectively eliminate El Gato Malo from Derby consideration as he doesn’t have the earnings to guarantee a spot. Colonel John definitely finished with interest today in a very good effort.
Maximum Points: Colonel John 288Maximum Score: 3,376My Score: 1,782
Race 8: This was a MSW26K for 3yo’s at 6f. I selected More Than Able, a longshot making his third career start after two nondescript efforts. However, More than Able is second time Lasix today and flashed a very sharp workout since his last start, a 4f move in 48.1 breezing. The post-time favorite is Lazer Sun, a first-time starter by Posse who draws in from the Also-eligible list.
The Result: Lazer Sun tracked a fast early pace and drew off to victory at 5/2 odds over Pajarito and B K Winks. Three first-time starters hit the trifecta in today’s 8th race. That’s the second consecutive victory for trainer Louie Roussel today. My selection showed no early speed and finished 4th at 15-1 odds. Pajarito got the highest points in this race for finishing second.
Maximum Points: Pajarito 238Maximum Score: 3,614My Score: 1,782
Race 9: This was a Clm5000N3L for 4+ at 6 1/2f. I selected Siteofawinner who appeared to be lone speed on paper after wiring the field last time out and generating a strong Beyer figure for this level. I’m hoping for a duplication of that effort.
The Result: Siteofawinner posted an even bigger victory today at 7/5 with a 10-length victory in frontrunning fashion. Freddy’s Thunder finished 2nd at 19-1 and Flaming Forest ran third. Freddy’s Thunder was the top point getter in this race for his second place finish.
Maximum Points: Freddy’s Thunder 166Maximum score: 3,780My score: 1,896
Race 10: The final contest race today was a Statebred MSW26K for 3yo’s at 6f. I selected Carson’s Hawk making his third career start after a pair of runner up finishes at this level. The horse that defeated Carson’s Hawk last time out came back to win again. The main threat to Carson’s Hawk is a second time starter named Biscuits and Beer from the Owen Rainwater barn. Biscuits and Beer ran second in the slop in his debut. Rainwater ran 1-2 in the Illinois Owners Handicap in Race 5.
The Result: The winner was Big Vic, a first time starter at 7/2 odds trained by Christine Janks who also had the favorite Carson’s Hawk. Timeless Facts finished second at 13-1 and Biscuits N Beer ran third. My selection ran very poorly at 2-1 with no apparent excuse. Timeless Facts got the most points for finishing second in this race.
Maximum Points: Timeless Facts 194Maximum Score: 3,974My Score: 1,896
Summary: Recapturetheglory was the key horse this week as he was worth 1,188 points. Tale of Ekati was another key horse as he upset the Wood Memorial at 8-1. Plenty of points were available to make a move if you were right at the right time. I was in position to possibly win the contest this week after the Illinois Derby result, but I wasn’t able to find those last few winners. I’m guessing the winner possibly got 2,500 points this week so I’m afraid I’m going to be a little short of a top 6 finish. But, it was a nice improvement after two months worth of poor efforts.
War Pass did redeem himself today as he ran much better, although he was still defeated at 4/5 odds. It doesn’t look to me like he will handle the Derby distance of 1m ¼. Colonel John finished strongly and looks like he will definitely stay the trip in Kentucky if he takes to the surface. I didn’t really see any Derby material in the Illinois Derby to be honest.
Good Luck next week as we head to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby. We also get two additional bonus races, the Blue Grass stakes from Keeneland and the Holy Bull from Gulfstream Park.