This morning the field was drawn for the 76th
running of the Grade 2, $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 that 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 3 Razorback and Grade 2
Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn before getting up in the final jump to win the
Grade 3 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 2 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
3 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 1 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 3 Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar. Finishing fifth in that event, he faced
three-year-olds in the Grade 2 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 3 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 1 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 Maide 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.