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The Dark Horse

Willcox Inn Returns To Action Saturday in the Hawthorne Derby

Saturday’s 8th race at Hawthorne is the 47th edition of the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby.  This race features Willcox Inn coming off of a good run at the Mid-America triple earlier this summer.  Now he faces nine other foes in this 9-furlong turf route. I personally am very impressed with the race the Hawthorne racing office has put together for this one.

Since 1965 some of the best three-year-olds have been coming to Chicago to run in this prestigious contest on the turf. Originally this race was called the Hawthorne Diamond Jubilee and was run on the dirt track until
1984. Other winning alumni of this race include Bold Bidder who won the first of these races in 1965, Jaklin Klugman in 1980, Rainbows For Life in 1991, River Squall in 1997, and Proceed Bee in 2009 who also happened to run in this year’s Arlington Million. 

Race 8 – The Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby

#1 – Willcox Inn (5-2)

Willcox Inn returns to Chicago after hanging out and working out in Kentucky for the last few weeks after taking a breather.  This champion of a horse successfully completed the first two legs of the Mid-America triple before finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Secretariat, a race dominated by Europeans Treasure Beach and Ziyarid.  In my opinion he still ran a good race that day with jockey Robbie Albarado aboard, who also gets the mount for this race as well.  This horse has also not finished off the board if you put a line through his only Grade 1 stakes race and two polytrack races.  He was meant to run on the turf as his 5-2-1-1 record shows and I think he fits very well here.  One other thing to note for you speed figure folks: Willcox Inn has improved his Beyer figures on every start.  Watch out though, he likes to have a little pace to chase after and this race seems to be lacking in that department.

#10 –
Breathless Storm (7-2)

This lightly-raced three-year-old intrigues me a lot.  I can’t imagine that Kiaran McLaughlin would send a good running colt and jockey Paco Lopez to Chicago for no reason, right? This improving three-year-old recently won two races in a row at Monmouth including a minor stakes on firm turf.  This horse seems to be able to handle the distance and has also been working out very well recently since the layoff on 7/31/11.  Still it’s his very first race against graded stakes competition. 

#3 –
Crimson China (5-1)

Yes another runner coming off of a freshening up, Crimson China comes to Hawthorne to run in another graded stakes race. However, he has been struggling against graded stakes company.  Crimson China has been working well and, to change things up, will be adding blinkers for the first time.  Perhaps that’s what the horse needs in order to focus a little better on the track.  Still, we have one of the better national trainers in Graham Motion sending Crimson China here and there has to be a good reason for that.

#9 –
Derby Kitten (5-1)

Derby Kitten gets a pretty generous 5-1 morning line here in my opinion.  This horse is 1-for-10 lifetime on the turf (10-1-3-3) and that only victory came in a maiden claiming turf sprint at Gulfstream earlier this year.  He had a good showing in the Grade 3 Lexington right before the Kentucky Derby and hadn’t won a race until his most recent minor stakes race at Woodbine (on the polytrack).  I’ll look elsewhere here. 

#2 –
Suntracer (6-1)

Here’s a horse that I really think can also contend here.  Suntracer, Chris Block’s entry, may not look like he’s in very good recent form.  Don’t let the past performances fool you.  Suntracer had finished second to Willcox Inn twice in stakes races over the summer, and if you draw a line through his finish in the Secretariat, pretty much finished in the money each time.  If we look at the optional claimer on 9/10/11 he may have finished fourth, but that was behind the likes of local heroes Tajaaweed and Tazz.  I think Suntracer is rounding back into form and Chris Block will have this horse ready to strike.

#8 –
Pass The Dice (10-1)

Wayne Catalano has this lightly-raced and undefeated colt in an interesting spot.  This horse has done nothing but graduate through the ranks with ease.  He has the improving three-year-old pattern and very good recent workouts.  Junior Alvarado gets the mount as he also rode this horse to victory in a N2X allowance last time out at Arlington Park.  Pass The Dice should sit just off the pace and wait to find his spot to charge at the end.  Let’s see how he handles the jump into graded stakes competition. 

#5 –
Cavalero (15-1)

Dang it.  This is the horse that I should have made money on during closing day at Arlington and instead was influenced by others to bet on someone else.  Ok ok, I digress.  This horse is one that really seems to enjoy the turf.  He is 4-for-5 with a 100% rate finishing in the money on the lawn.  Still, I wonder about the giant leap in class level considering less than a year ago he was running in open $7,500 claimers at Turfway. 

#6 –
Friendly Banter (15-1)

Jozbin Santana rides for Louis Roussel on another lightly-raced three-year-old who had a fair showing on Arlington’s turf course.  I think he regresses off of his last effort on 9/5/11 and this being a gigantic jump in class might be too much for him to handle. 

Rounding out the field:
#4 –
Legendary King (20-1) Hard to gauge where this four-time turf winner fits, but could surprise.
#7 –
Lethal (30-1) Has only run against state-bred company.

Race Analysis:

This race is really devoid of any
pace.  Perhaps Friendly Banter would be the most likely to jump out to the lead with a bunch of horses running second tier followed by the closers.  I like the improving three-year-olds and we have some in Willcox Inn, Suntracer, and Breathless Storm. 

My choice:

As most of you may know I am not a chalk eater, but I have to go with the class of the field here, Willcox Inn.  I just think he outclasses the field here and should be able to overcome the slower pace.  My alternate choices are Suntracer and Breathless Storm.

Who do you have as your choices in this race?

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Older Comments about Willcox Inn Returns To Action Saturday in the Hawthorne Derby...

I like Crimson China, but I worried about the slow pace (I love that picture). Hopefully the blinkers will put him into the race a little earlier.
  • Chicago · Jasen, the pace was fairly slow as expcted. The blinkers didn't seem to help Crimson China much unfortunately. · 2023 days ago
I hate hawthorne because YOU always WIN!!!
Nice article Chris, I'm right in line with your analysis of the top three. I especially like Breathless Storm and think Cavalero has a chance to hit the board, but Willcox Inn is hard to beat here.

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Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
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