Hawthorne Racecourse (4/15/11)
Contact: Jim Miller
Watch Derby preps at Hawthorne
Back at it for a Fan Friendly Friday as we have an 8-race card leading into the final major weekend of Derby preps. I’m going to step up to my soapbox. There is some good and bad with the three-year-old preps this weekend. The good is there are some fuller fields once again for the weekend preps. The bad is, due to the movement of the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby to be run later in the year, the three-year-old crop was further diluted, and this may prove to be another weekend of short-priced upsets by better horses who may or may not be Derby bound and no real Derby buzz.
This year, we don’t know who the best horse is, we haven’t had a chance to see it because any true Derby contender hasn’t had to face anyone yet. That’s what happens when we go from 4 prep races just 4 weeks out from the Derby a couple of years ago, to 9 prep races in the same time period this year. This three-year-old crop has not had to show anyone anything yet, and this is a year where the best three-year-old in the country may have just broken a maiden or just won an allowance race. We’re three weeks from the Kentucky Derby, but I can tell you right now, I will take the six longest shots and box them this year, they will have just as good of a chance of winning as Uncle Mo or The Factor on the First Saturday in May.
Looking back at the Illinois Derby last weekend, we may have had four horses run in our race that could still be making a mark in 2011 while the vast majority of the Kentucky Derby runners are on the sidelines licking their wounds. Joe Vann ran a bigger speed figure in the Illinois Derby than Uncle Mo did in the Wood. Zoebear, Sour and The Fed Eased are all just getting started on their careers while others are getting worn down. I expect to see big things out of these runners as 2011 moves ahead.
Looking at the Hawthorne standings, Tanner Riggs had a bit of a slump about a month ago, but there has been no stopping him since. Riggs stands atop the rider standings with 40 victories. Jozbin Santana continues his consistent riding as he is back in the mix after a few days away for sickness with 35 wins. Florent Geroux, fresh off his Illinois Derby triumph is next with 30 wins, followed by Tim Thornton (26), Seth Martinez (22) and Julio Felix (22). Martinez and Felix have done it on their own this meet with each of their agent’s hustling book from Oaklawn Park for them.
The trainer race is a two-horse affair as Joel Berndt continues to hold a 5-win advantage over Frank Kirby. Both trainers have had great meets and each will have their share of runners in the remaining two weeks.
Frank Kirby has his hands full for leading owner as well. Frank and Sharon Kirby’s Hondo Ranch is in a tie with Eagle Valley Farm, who also race horses with Kirby, with 8 wins apiece. This is a race that will go to the wire. Joel Berndt also trains two of the four runners that have won three times on the meet. He trains Massecuite and Princess Freebie, with Massecuite looking for win #4 on Saturday. The other two three-time winners are Death Valley and Distorted Groom. Look for Distorted Groom to be back on Illinois Champions Day.
As we do each Friday, we will have an online chat on HorseplayerNow.com as we cover the racing card, providing selections and analysis. The chat will begin at 2:15 pm and cover that entire afternoon of racing.
Main Track – Fast
Scratch #4 – North of Time
Hawthorne Race Course is in its 102nd year of racing under Carey family ownership. Hawthorne races Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in April. First post daily is 1:30 pm with Friday’s first post at 2:35 pm. For more information on racing at Hawthorne, visit our website at www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.