Saturday, Oct. 3, Hawthorne
The Low-Down: The door to the fall/winter meet at Hawthorne just opened, but the city oval wastes no time dishing the goods. A trio of solid stakes is on Saturday's menu, two of them graded, and a $50,000 guaranteed Late Pick Four (races 7-10) adds a little zip.
Eleven handicap horses are programmed for the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup, to be run over 10 furlongs on dirt. Jim Miller's 5-2 morning-line choice is the $1.4 million earner JONESBORO, who was last seen finishing second as the 2-5 chalk in the Governor's Cup at Remington. The winner that day, GOING BALLISTIC, is listed as a 12-1 Gold Cup outsider, and third place finisher ALCOMO also makes the trip to Chicago. Other top contenders for the Gold Cup include: the classy California raider AWESOME GEM, Todd Pletcher's marathoner NITE LIGHT, Grade 2 BROOKLYN upsetter ELDAAFER and Grade 3 Iselin runner-up YOU AND I FOREVER. "Jockeys" star Joe Talamo, who has gained national fame despite winning just 11 percent of his races this season, will pilot the up-and-comer LOWTHER STREET for trainer Eoin Harty. Well placed as a potential prep to the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Gold Cup hasn't been won by a horse of significance since the multi-millionaire Perfect Drift took down the '03 edition. Back in the '90s, Awesome Again ('98) and Buck's Boy ('97) both used the Gold Cup as a springboard to Breeders' Cup glory.
Our Eyes: A wide variety of horses have won this race in recent years. The key to success is the ability to negotiate 10 furlongs over a Hawthorne main track that can be deep and tiring. JONESBORO, who struggled a bit early in the season, really picked it up in the spring, posting two wins and a second in graded-stakes company, earning the highest speed figures of his 41-race career in the process. He's a grinder who likes to keep the leaders in his sights, and with pace forcers STONEHOUSE and SHADOWBDANCING entered, he should be in line for an advantageous, stalking trip. GOING BALLISTIC ended an extended streak of dullness last out, rallying from out of the clouds to post the Governor's Cup upset. He should relish the long stretch Hawthorne has to offer. ALCOMO is an intriguing long shot. The impressive winner of the $200K Greenwood Cup at Philly Park in July, he took seven weeks off in advance of his Remington run. Trailing early, he made a premature five-wide move, and actually stuck his head in front before flattening out. He owns several wins over comparable distances, and is proven over the track, having finished second behind SHADOWBDANCING in the Bonasera Stakes this past spring.
AWESOME GEM has won just once from his last 14 starts, but he still has plenty of spring in his step. He continues to hold his own with California's best on both synthetics and turf, three of his five career wins have come on dirt, and his daddy, Awesome Again, is a former Gold Cup champion. It took Darley Stable's LOWTHER STREET six tries to break his maiden, and his claim to fame is a recent first-level allowance score at Saratoga. That being said, he appears to have stepped up his game since transitioning from synthetics to dirt, and the 10 furlong-distance may be right up his alley. NIGHT LIGHT can surely handle the distance, and he has a touch of class, but don't be enamored by his recent Grade 3 Fall Championship score at Turfway. He galloped through pedestrian splits, and was never asked to take a deep breath. YOU AND I FOREVER showed some promise as a sophomore. He's run only three times this year, showing steady progression. His runner-up performance behind a much the best winner over a sloppy Monmouth strip is better than it looks on paper, and the stretch-out to 10 furlongs appears to be very well-timed.
The Bottom Line: Wow, this is a sensational betting race. It's tough to find a flaw with AWESOME GEM, but I also like potentially live long shots ALCOMO, LOWTHER STREET and YOU AND I FOREVER. Let's box those four exactas, and key AWESOME GEM first and second with that trio, while getting a small win play on ALCOMO.
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