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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (3/27/10)

Contact: Ron Uchman
(708) 780-3700

Talented Sophomores Point to The $500,000 Grade III Illinois Derby

The 53rd edition of the Grade III Illinois Derby promises to be an exceptionally competitive event. We won’t know who, or how many, will be entered until next Tuesday, but the connections of a few have indicated their intentions so we’ll concentrate on those runners for this article. They will be presented in alphabetical order.

American Lion is first up. Owned by WinStar Farm LLC, this son of Tiznow out of the Storm Cat mare Storm Tide is trained by Eoin G Harty. He has only, until this point, raced on synthetic racing surfaces but he’s obviously bred to handle anything. He made his debut at Arlington last year, finishing second to another possible starter, Call Shot. American Lion won his final start of 2009, the Grade III Hollywood Preview, but he has yet to crack the winner’s circle in 2010. However, he does have a good turn of early foot and that kind of speed wins a lot of local races.

By Smarty Jones out of the Affirmed mare Apasionata, Backtalk, trained by Tom Amoss and owned by Gold Mark Farm LLC, won the first three races of his career, including the Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill and the Grade II Sanford at Saratoga. He was turned out after a disappointing effort in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October but returned with a vengeance in February, taking the $75,000 Sportsman’s Paradise at Delta Downs, incidentally winning around two turns for the first time.

The lightly raced Game Ball is a late-charging runner owned and bred by John C. Oxley. He has yet to test stakes company but this Mark Casse-trained runner owns a devastating late run which, one would figure, would be favored by Hawthorne’s long stretch. With his pedigree, Sky Mesa out of the Saint Ballado mare Ballido, the nine-furlong distance of this race should be right up his alley.

Eric Fein and Anthony Mitola’s Schoolyard Dreams, trained by Derek S. Ryan, figures to draw plenty of attention. By Stephen Got Even, out of the Prospector’s Music mare Hear This, Schoolyard Dreams finished second in both of his races this year. He was runner up to Rule in the Grade III Sam F Davis and second to Odysseus in the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby, where he lost by only a nose. His speed figures have increased dramatically since blinkers were added to his equipment but, so far, the addition hasn’t resulted in a win. But that could easily change in this race.

Priscilla Graham’s Turf Melody, trained by Graham Motion, has had a tough time pulling it all together this year but it’s always a mistake to overlook anything starting for this barn. This son of Maria’s Mon split the fields in his last two starts but was starting to make up ground late. The stretch to nine furlongs could be just what the doctor ordered.

Yawanna Twist easily beat New York breds to win his first two races but it was his top-notch effort in the Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct in his last start, his first around two turns, that stamped him among the elite 3-year-olds in the US. Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr, this Steel Your Face Stable LLC homebred might not sport the lofty pedigree of some of his rivals but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and this talented sophomore has been mighty impressive so far.

Hawthorne Race Course is in its 101st year of racing under Carey family ownership. Hawthorne races Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday – Sunday with a first post of 1:35 pm daily through April 25. For more information on racing at Hawthorne, visit our website at

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