Race of the Week 2017
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The Dark Horse

Headache? Take One Gold Cup And Call Me In The Morning!

Today was my first ever visit to Hawthorne Race Course and I was not disappointed at all.  In fact I felt right at home being surrounded by horse races and familiar faces, only this time it was at Chicago’s fall racing destination.  The weather was perfect and the racing was even better.  Before I go into my initial impressions of Hawthorne let’s recap the big event of the day: the $500,000 Grace 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup!

Horse Racing Nation’s Indiana correspondent Mr. Scott Dick had a feeling he was going to have a headache today and boy was he right!  Coming off of a freshening up and a couple of bullet works, Headache sat in 6th place through half of a mile tracking leaders while saving some ground.  At the ¾ pole he even dropped to 7th before turning on his jets and battling in the stretch with Cease (who even led at one point) and Where’s Sterling.  In fact those three battled each other all the way through the stretch, even to a point where I thought there might be a blanket finish!  Ultimately Headache pulled ahead just enough to win by ½ of a length and pay $12.60 to win.  

Co-favorite and crowd-favorite Giant Oak couldn’t quite show his awesome ability today as he needed to save ground coming from the outside post and then swing five wide at the top of the long Hawthorne stretch to try to catch the rest of the pack, finally finishing 5th.  Still, I’m glad to see that Giant Oak decided to come back to Chicago.  He was also looking very impressive in the paddock today!  

It’s evident to me that any early speed in the race burned up and could not last the full 1 ¼ miles, as expected.  The race setup well for closers and as you can tell by watching the race replay that’s exactly what happened.  Cease, who finished 3rd, was the only horse in the race to hit the board by coming from just off the pace instead of further back in the pack.  

In typical Sorenson fashion, my two choices Mister Marti Gras and Where’s Sterling finished 4th and 2nd respectively.  But what made up for my financial misfortune was the excitement of this impressive graded stake race and the picture perfect day at Hawthorne!

And speaking of the day at Hawthorne, I wanted to share my initial impressions of my first visit ever to a race track that was not named Canterbury or Arlington.
•    I have to give props to Jim Miller for being one of the most down-to-earth, friendliest, and gracious hosts in the industry!  Not only did he take very, very good care of our group, I happened to overhear (then briefly become part of) a conversation with him and trainer Manny Perez.  Mr. Perez was giving Jim some suggestions on some minor improvements for the horsemen at Hawthorne and Jim took them into consideration without question.  That’s the kind of people we like to have in our industry, right?  Whatever it takes to make things better for all!  I mean, the guy basically runs the show there, knows just about everyone, and does a fantastic job.
•    For some strange reason, I just felt at home there.  Not sure, but it was a déjà vu experience for me.  There was ample parking in the East lot and the walk to the main entrance wasn’t far.  The sign above the main entrance established the historical significance of the race track by stating it’s been around since 1891!  So you know this place is a part of Chicago history, right?  Even the Cubs have won a World Series since then. 
•    Walking in, I was on “the list” so Gabriel and I simply got out programs and tried to find our group.
•    There were plenty of simulcast TV’s within viewing distance of our table which made it easy to keep track of all of the racing across the country including the victory by Gio Ponti in the turf mile at Keeneland!
•    I was amazed by how long the stretch is at Hawthorne.  It’s a short run to a tight first turn in route races but horses definitely need stamina to last in that long stretch drive.
•    The track plays very fair.  Jim Miller has said it and I have noticed through my own observation that there really isn’t an inside/outside or speed/closer bias in either direction.  
•    I finished in the black for the day so winning would certainly give anyone a positive experience, right?
•    Speaking of winning and value, did you happen to catch some of the mutuels today at Hawthorne?  All I can say is wow.  There were some very nice win and exotic payouts today and I even scored with the winner in the 7th race!
•    And finally, I know Gabriel commented about the escalators at Arlington, but man, the escalators at Hawthorne are even impressive for me!

Here's some of the video I took of the Hawthorne Gold Cup today, check it out!  Also, if you have never made it to Hawthorne for fall racing in Chicago, I highly recommend you make a visit!

Gold Cup Paddock - Video 1
Gold Cup Paddock - Video 2
Gold Cup Paddock - Video 3
Call to the Post (by Gabriel)
Gold Cup Post Parade (by Gabriel)
The Winner - Headache!

And there is it all wrapped up for you.  My first trip to Hawthorne is the cake and the Gold Cup is the icing.  A very good first experience and I am looking forward to going again next weekend!

What were your thoughts on the Hawthorne Gold Cup today?  Did you cash in?

Also, have you been to Hawthorne before?  What has your experience been?  I’m curious to know! 


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Older Comments about Headache? Take One Gold Cup And Call Me In The Morning!...

Hi Dad!!!
Awesome post Chris, makes me want to be at Hawthorne. The Gold Cup has producied some really nice winners, I decided to look it up after reading this, impressive alumni list! You recap the action of the stretch drives different from anybody else I know, it's a really good style.
Love Hawthorne, but that long stretch can give you one heck of a headache. I remember taking my mom there to watch my filly run, and her direct quote was, "She has to run all that way?" LOL But she did, and we were happily in the winner's circle with Richie Scherer and Jose Ferrer in the irons. Good times!
so glad you had such a great day I twas a good day to be at the track Wish I could have been there Thanks to your little chats with Scott Dick I even took a look at and chose to have a Headache! Not often one will do that Thanks
Love this, Thanks for the shout-out, also! I just watched the replay and your recap made me feel like I was there. Thank you for making Illinois racing so exciting!
Yesterday was my 1st time back at Hawthorne since the mid to late 80's. I have to say, I was quite impressed and am looking very forward to coming out again next saturday!The indefatigable,omnipresent Jim Miller checked in with us on a couple of times to see how our Hawthorne "experience" was going-incredible! He has to be the hardest working man in the horse racing industry!

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 (Whoa - it's me - the DARK HORSE)
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!
While finishing school in Chicago, I spent every possible moment at Arlington Park with my dad.  We took the time to develop computer programs (on the ever popular Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS) to try to find patterns and handicap races more accurately.  My dad taught me a lot about handicapping races, paying particular attention to class moves!

Since then, I have become more involved with horse racing each passing year through a variety of different media-based roles. Once deemed the "second best racing ambassador in Chicago" (hey I've been called worse), 
I now reside in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the USA and will be covering many different aspects of racing - in my unpredictable DARK HORSE STYLE!  
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This blog is eternally dedicated to the memory of Tim "Tiznow" Reynolds.

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