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Too Close To Call...

Repeat! The jockey and trainer races at Hawthorne Race Course are too close to call. With slightly over half the races of this meet reporting, we cannot project a winner in either category. Since there are approximately 309 races left in the final meet in the first year of the new millennium, anything can happen. It's unlikely, though always possible, that there will be any need for litigation to determine the final winners in each grouping.

With perennial local leading jockey Mark Guidry currently riding at Churchill Downs -- and doing extremely well in his first full-time gig in Kentucky -- the floodgates have opened for the rest of the local jockey colony. Without the majority of "live" mounts going to one rider, visits to the winner's circle are spread out far more than they have been in the recent past.

Through Thursday, with the help of a three-bagger on Wednesday, Zoe Cadman (our lively 27-year-old apprentice) leads all jockeys, both in races started and races won. Her 29 wins from 206 starts give her a win percentage of 14.08, an in-the-money percentage of 38.83, and earnings of $533,858.

However, the leaders in this category have changed almost on a daily basis. Chris Emigh, who trails Cadman by two, was projected by many going into this meet to win top jock honors. And that was even before Mark Guidry headed toward warmer climes.

In addition, Alfredo Juarez Jr., who leads all jockeys with $581,999 in purses won, and Larry Sterling Jr., currently tied for third with 25 victories, are easily within striking distance of Zoe.

Many, however, have noticed the way that a re-energized E. T. Baird is riding. Baird, who didn't ride in the Chicagoland area in the past year, is showing why he was one of the top jockeys in the country a few years back. We hear he's back working an abundance of horses in the morning. He could be the sleeper in this race.

The trainer's race is just as muddled. Last year's leading trainer, Harvey Vanier, was in third place following Thursday's races but he trails Hugh Robertson, with 14 winners, by only two. Michael Reavis, with 13 victories, is currently in second place. All three trainers have large strings stabled here and all are likely to be in the hunt until the very end.

There have been some pleasant surprises in the trainer's race, however. Danny Miller, currently fifth in the standings, has won with nine of only 34 starters, for a win percentage exceeding 26%. Ralph Martinez, better known downstate where he wins at a pretty hefty clip, won a couple on Wednesday and boosted his local win percentage to 21%, with eight victories in 38 starts.

Jan Ely and Robert Irwin, both red-hot at the start of the meet, have slowed a bit but both are currently over 30% in the win column. Michael Weissman won three of six and his other three runners have finished in the money. Venerable James Eckrosh, with three wins from eight starts, keeps on clicking when most others wouldn't even be ticking. And don't forget Glenn Hild. His Dust On the Bottle upset the Gold Cup.

Most of these trainers won't get close to the lead in the standings, their stables are simply too small. But all deserve recognition for a job well done. They could be compared to the Independent parties in our political system: Great ideas and great execution but not enough of the glory.




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