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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (4/2/08)

Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 222-4542

Meet the Illinois Derby Contenders

Stickney, IL – Granted, calling anyone a contender or a pretender is a result of personal handicapping, but relying on past performances to determine the likelihood of winners is a tried and true practice. With that in mind, while there are no complete toss outs in the 51st Illinois Derby, to be run Saturday, April 5, there are but four three-year-olds who seem most likely to emerge victorious.

Denis of Cork will look for his fourth lifetime win, and keep his perfect record intact when he faces six other colts in the Grade 2, $500,000 stake, restricted to three-year-olds.

Hawthorne Race Course will be the fourth different track in four starts for the son of Harlan’s Holiday, but his trainer David Carroll doesn’t seem all that concerned, and attributes the traveling more to circumstance than planning.

“After the Southwest Stakes, the game plan was to run in the Rebel,” Carroll said. “But everyone talked it over, and decided the best plan was to spread the races a bit further apart. The owners (Mr. and Mrs. Warren) are believers in the sheets, and that combined with this race being four weeks from the Kentucky Derby led us to Hawthorne.”

Carroll also knows that he may need additional graded earnings to qualify for the run for the roses, and wants to find the best venue to accomplish that. Denis of Cork has graded earnings totaling $150,000. If more than 20 horses are entered for the Kentucky Derby (the maximum number of starters), the tie-breaker becomes most graded earnings.

“This horse has only run over dirt tracks in his starts so it would have been too risky to try the Blue Grass (Polytrack) at this stage of his career when we’re trying to get to Churchill,” Carroll offered. “I felt the Illinois Derby gave us the best chance right now, to see where we are.”

As for his accomplishments on the racetrack, Denis of Cork has shown a strong closing style in all his starts including a “going away” tally in the Southwest. Clearly this is a talented horse, and based on morning activity, ‘Cork’ has a great chance to remain undefeated. Julien Leparoux will get the ride.

Atoned will be trainer Todd Pletcher’s representative on Saturday. Pletcher will be looking for his fourth Illinois Derby win with a horse that has finished second in his last four outings, two of them in graded stakes.

“I thought he ran and fought hard in the Tampa Bay Derby,” Pletcher said. “It was his first race since the layoff, and I expect him to move forward. We’ve had a lot of success at Hawthorne and I hope that continues on Saturday.”

Atoned was caught at the wire by Big Truck in the Tampa Bay Derby, and before that, as a two-year-old, was also necked out by Court Vision in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

“Because of how well Atoned ran in the Remsen, we thought about running him back in the Wood Memorial, but for various reasons we’ll start at Hawthorne, “Pletcher said.

Atoned is also in need of additional graded stakes earnings. He currently has $100,000, and will likely need a top-two finish if he has any intention of landing in Kentucky. Atoned has also shown a preferred closing style and will have the riding services of veteran Joe Bravo.

One entrant who need not worry about graded earnings is the Bill Mott conditioned Z Humor. By virtue of his dead-heat win in the $1,000,000 Grade III Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs, and a few smaller checks in various other graded events, Z Humor has accumulated $524,000 in graded earnings.

That aside, Z Humor has quite a bit to prove, probably to trainer and owner alike. In his only two starts as a three-year-old, Z Humor pressed the pace in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay before fading to fifth, and most recently was a mildly closing fourth, beaten nearly nine lengths by Cool Coal Man.

Still, the son of Distorted Humor is trained by one of the game’s best, is apparently working quite well for this start, and can be a huge factor with one of his better efforts. Rene Douglas will get the riding call.

Golden Spikes ran fifth in the Fountain of Youth, just behind Z Humor, in his most recent start, and now heads to Hawthorne for trainer Marty Wolfson.

“We took the blinkers off him after the Fountain of Youth,” Wolfson said. “He appeared to be rank that day. We originally put them on him because he was green, but he’s really doing great now without them.”

Golden Spikes is a speedy sort whom Wolfson said does not need the lead to be effective, and in fact, his two lifetime wins came from off the pace.

If Golden Spikes does win the Illinois Derby, it will likely mark the end of a streak that has sent the last six winners of this race to the Kentucky Derby. Wolfson enters the Illinois Derby without Kentucky in mind.

“We just felt this was a good spot for the horse,” Wolfson said. “I have no intentions of heading to the Kentucky Derby, even if we win. I believe the horse might need more time between starts.”

Hawthorne’s leading rider Tim Thornton will ride Golden Spikes.

Hawthorne Race Course’s Spring Thoroughbred meet begins on Friday, March 7 and will continue through Monday, April 28. Live racing will be conducted Thursday through Monday, regular first post 1:35 pm central time. Hawthorne Race Course is located at 3501 Laramie Avenue, Cicero, IL 60804, gates open daily at 7 am. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at www.hawthorneracecourse.com.

 

 

 

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