|Hawthorne Gold Cup recap
Contact: Jim Miller (708) 780-3700
HAIL THE CHIEF WINS HAWTHORNE GOLD CUP
"When Duckhorn was alone on the bridle going around the turn he looked like he was in a race on his own. I was certainly concerned," stated trainer Niall O'Callaghan, speaking of Saturday's Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup and his horse Hail the Chief's winning effort. "Of course Jorge (Chavez) had ridden this horse before and he knows what acceleration he has. The rider obviously knows much more when he's on them than we do watching. It's much worse for us."
Obviously, it's easy to be philosophical when your charge has just won the biggest race of his career by over three lengths.
Jorge Chavez, the rider of Hail the Chief, whose best recent efforts came in wire-to-wire fashion, was content to let Duckhorn, the winner of the 2001 Gold Cup and a seven-length wire-to-wire winner in his last at Keeneland, build what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the early going. He grabbed the lead quickly, drew off by three and a half at the quarter, five lengths by the half, and still had a three-length lead at the three-quarter pole. It was then that Chavez pushed the button on his push-button horse.
Hail the Chief quickly reeled in Duckhorn and held a length and a half lead by the mile. He was never challenged after that. He had extended the lead to four by the time they turned for home and he won, ridden out, by a comfortable three and a quarter lengths.
Dollar Bill had only the venerable Sir Bear beaten in the early going but he had gotten into second coming out of the turn. Although no match for Hail the Chief, Dollar Bill did finish over six lengths clear of the third-place runner, Parade Leader.
Mark Guidry, Dollar Bill's rider, said, "Chavez rode a great race. He had ridden both Hail the Chief and Duckhorn before, so he knew what each was going to do. We had to try from the 3/8 pole on to get up in time, but it just wasn't enough. My horse ran his heart out, but today wasn't to be the day."
Duckhorn, who had everything his own way for much of the race, faded to fourth beating only Sir Bear who was eased coming out of the turn.
"I had so much horse left, but I came up empty," said jockey Randy Meier. "We got to go easier than last year. He just ran out of gas. We turned up the backside and he was pricking his ears. He was loping along like he did last time. At the head of lane, he tried to go with that horse a little bit. He couldn't go with him and packed it in. I thought they might press him a little bit earlier. We went down the lane so easily the first time. They don't want me to guzzle this horse, choke him to go any slower."
"I think he bounced," explained trainer Patrick Byrne. "He ran a huge number in his last race. You can never figure this horse out coming back in four weeks. He's more like a five- or six-week horse. Last time he ran huge, like a 2 on the Ragozin sheets. He had soft fractions for him. That's the way he runs. He just came up empty. We'll give him five weeks and look for a spot."
Jorge Chavez, the jockey aboard winner Hail the Chief, was running to catch a flight but managed to get a few words in. "I'm happy I won the race. The horse broke good. I knew the outside horse (Duckhorn) was going to the lead so I just let him go. I just stayed behind and watched.
"I got him to the outside so he wouldn't get dirt kicked in his face. They said if the other horse (Duckhorn) got an easy lead to take him off the pace. When I asked my horse he responded. It was very good. I'm happy the way he ran. He relaxed real good."
Corey Lanerie, jockey on third place Parade Leader, said, "the race set up the way I thought it would. I actually thought I would be a little farther back with him but he was a little aggressive early and he kind of placed me a little closer to the pace than I wanted to be. Coming out of the turn he made his move but he just wasn't good enough today."
They covered the mile and a quarter in 2:02.80 after fractions of 23:81 for the quarter; 47:72 for the half; 1:11.63 for six furlongs; and 1:37.55 for the mile.
Hail the Chief paid $6.20, $3.60, $3.00; Dollar Bill $3.60, $2.60; Parade Leader $2.80; the $2 2-4 Exacta paid $17.40; $2 Trifecta 2-4-1 $54.20; and the $2 Superfecta 2-4-1-6 paid $106.20.
"I thought he (Chavez) could get Hail the Chief to relax. He's never been a horse that would close really hard in the mornings. He never struck me as a horse who had to have the lead," said O'Callaghan. "I did not give Jorge Chavez any instructions per se. Jorge said that if it was muddy he wouldn't let the horse get away. He said Duckhorn was even better in the mud. Jorge made a superior move by not using the horse early. This was no great plan that I had. I told him 'You ride the horse'. I always believe that's the best way to do it."
When asked is they were going to run Hail the Chief in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill on June 15, O'Callaghan laughed, "if Donnie Richardson gives me the right weights I'll show."