Hawthorne Racecourse (10/3/12)
Contact: Jim Miller
Alternation Heads Field for Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup
Field Includes Five Multiple Graded Stakes Winners
STICKNEY, IL – This morning the field was drawn for the 76th running of the Grade II $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap. The marquee event kicks off the fall Hawthorne Thoroughbred meet and has drawn a field of seven, including five horses who are multiple graded stakes winners. The Gold Cup will go as the 8th race on a nine race Saturday Hawthorne card and will be contested at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles on the Hawthorne dirt surface.
Drawing the rail and headlining the field for the Hawthorne Gold Cup is Alternation. Trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, Alternation surpassed the $1 million mark in earnings in his most recent victory in the Governor’s Cup at Remington Park on August 11. A winner of five of six starts in 2012 and nine of 15 races lifetime, Alternation opened 2012 with a win in the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn. He followed that race by rattling off victories in the Grade III Razorback and Grade II Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn before getting up in the final jump to win the Grade III Pimlico Special. Luis Quinonez gets the call once again aboard the morning line favorite at 5-2.
Breaking from post two is 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer. Trained by Diane Alvarado, Eldaafer is closing in on the magical $1 million mark and would surpass it with a victory in the Gold Cup. A winner of 12 of 39 career starts, Eldaafer ran a clear second behind the speedy Redeemed in the Grade II Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont on June 8. His most recent start was a winning one in the Carl Hanford Memorial at Delaware on September 8. Ricardo Santana, Jr. was aboard Eldaafer for that win and will be up once again in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. Eldaafer is 6-1 in the morning line.
Local hopes ride with multiple graded stakes winner Mister Marti Gras from the barn of Chris Block as he will break from post three. A horse familiar with Hawthorne, Mister Marti Gras closed with a rush in last year’s edition of the Gold Cup, finishing fourth while beaten a length and a quarter in that race. He followed that race with a win in the Grade III Ack Ack at Churchill to close out 2011. In 2012, Mister Marti Gras has been knocking on the door numerous times, running second or third in his last four races, all against graded company. Eddie Perez gets the call on Mister Marti Gras who is 5-1 in the morning line.
Grade I winner Pool Play draws post position four for trainer Mark Casse. Another runner in the field quickly approaching $1 million in career earnings, Pool Play has shown the ability to race on all surfaces but dirt may be his preferred racing surface. His last victory came on the dirt last summer in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill. Following that victory, Pool Play was given over a year off but has returned and is quickly returning to form. His most recent start was a late closing third in the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap as Pool Play should relish the added distance off that race. Miguel Mena is back aboard Pool Play, who is 6-1 in the morning line.
Last year’s third place finisher in the Hawthorne Gold Cup returns as Cease will try to erase that near miss in his second start in this race. Trained by Al Stall, Jr., Cease battled the entire way in the 2011 edition of the Gold Cup, beaten only a half-length by Headache on the wire. He followed that race with a solid effort in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, holding the lead late in the lane before tiring. Given a rest following that start, Cease has been a winner twice in 2012. In his most recent effort, Cease ran third in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on September 1. Drawing post four, Cease will be ridden by Jesse Campbell. Cease is 7-2 in the morning line.
Breaking from post six in the Gold Cup is the only three-year-old in the field, Fly Lexis Fly. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Fly Lexis Fly made his North American debut on July 27 in the Grade III Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar. Finishing fifth in that event, he faced three-year-olds in the Grade II Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in his next start, closing late to finish second. Hawthorne’s spring meet leading rider Francisco Torres gets the call on Fly Lexis Fly who is 8-1 in the morning line.
Rounding out the field for the Hawthorne Gold Cup is the speedy Nates Mineshaft. Trained by Austin Smith, Nates Mineshaft has had an excellent five-year-old campaign, winning four of six starts. Nates Mineshaft won back to back graded events in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap and Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds. On May 28 he would win the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap going away. His most recent start came in the Stephen Foster on June 16, leading late in the lane before being caught in the final strides of that Grade I event. Nates Mineshaft will be ridden by E.T. Baird and is 4-1 in the morning line.
Sandwiching the Hawthorne Gold Cup is a pair of $100,000 turf stakes with the Indian Maid Handicap and the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap. The Indian Maid drew a field on eight runners headed by trainer Danny Miller’s speedy Romacaca. The Indian Maid will be contested at 1 1/16 miles on the Hawthorne turf course. The Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap goes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf and drew a full field of 12. Last year’s Hawthorne Derby champ, Willcox Inn, heads the field for the Saturday finale.
Live racing returns to Hawthorne on Friday, October 5 and concludes Sunday, December 30. Live racing will be conducted every Wednesday-Sunday. First post daily is 2:10 pm. Hawthorne Race Course is located in Stickney IL at 3501 S. Laramie Ave. For information on live racing or groups at Hawthorne Race Course, contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700 or visit Hawthorne online at www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.