Let's try to warm up the frigid environs of Chicago with our Hot-pace Meltdown race of the week! Friday's 8th race at Hawthorne is a mile and 70 yard affair for Illinois breds, and the TimeformUS Pace Projector looks like this:
Quite happily, the logjam up front involves the first and second choices on the morning line. Azeg (#8, 2-1) is stretching out to a two-turn route at which he's shown plenty of speed in the past (and does so for a "HOT" trainer in Michael Revis). Looking at his Oct 30 race, it's surely worth noting that this horse was unable to hold on at this distance even when the pace was slow (denoted by the pace figures in blue), and when the track was favoring speed (denoted by the race rating in light red)! Now, he figures to face a significantly tougher task. Paper Maker (#3, 7-2) has flashed much improved early speed since stretching back out to two turns. Those pace figures in his last race would cause some serious problems for Azeg. And to make matters worse, Prince Who (#4, 20-1) stretches out in distance after having shown some keen speed at six furlongs. Even Last Nouncer (#5, 5-1) showed improved speed first time at a distance last time out, and could in theory be involved early as well. Amongst the horses who could take advantage and get involved late is Captain America (#6, 10-1). He has the best late pace rating in the field, at 81.
This horse rallied to win despite an unnaturally slow pace in the slop; so lethargic, in fact, that it suggests some kind of fluke related to the sloppy track conditions. What we're looking for here more is a repeat of three-back effort of Nov 17, in which the pace was hot and he came from 8th, rallied six wide and got up late. And yes, he also has some good efforts on fast tracks in his past form with some back figures that would put him in the ballgame for at least a share in this spot.