Saturday ushers in the stakes season at Hawthorne Race Course. Illinois breds will be at the center of the action in two six furlong dashes. Older fillies and mares will contest the Third Chance Handicap while older males will step up in the Robert S. Molaro Handicap, both worth $50,000.
In the Third Chance, speed looks to be the watchword with several in the field wanting the front end.
Morning line favorite, Exquisite Lady, is coming into the race on a four race winning streak over the last two seasons. She finished up her 2014 campaign with back to back allowance wins: one open and one statebred. After the holiday break, she came back to beat the boys in a $25,000 optional claiming race and then stepped up to beat fillies and mare in a $50,000 optional. She led at virtually every call of all four races.
She’ll have company on the front end, however. Doc Galore, an easy state bred allowance winner last out, second choice Scarletridgerunner, winner of 5 of her last 6, and perhaps even stakes placed Summer Again, all could provide early challenges for Exquisite Lady.
Though Karla With a K has slightly lower speed figures than the main contenders in the field, she herself has reeled off back to back wins and has done it from stalking just off the pace. She came back to the races after the winter break with a dismantling of an open allowance field. Should the speed dissolve in front of her, she could be in the perfect position to take advantage of the meltdown.
While the owner/trainer combo of William Stiritz and Scott Becker have a pair in the Third Chance that could threaten, the also are the connections of the top two morning line choices in the Molaro.
At 9/5, Luv Bandit is a previous stakes winner over the strip, taking the Lightning Jet Handicap in December at nearly 10-1. In Arkansas for the break, Luv Bandit took a $35,000 optional claiming race before simply being overmatched in the Essex Handicap. He cuts back to sprinting after those two route efforts and will be very dangerous in here with his stalking style.
Stablemate Creative Art has won 3 of his last 4, his only loss was to Luv Bandit – and others – in the Lightning Jet. He overcame a stumbling start to win an open allowance in bouncing back from the lackluster stakes effort. He came back from the break to win again, this time in a $25,000 optional claimer. He should be on the move late with his stablemate.
On the front end, both Rambling Richie and Gyp Rope should produce pace to run at late. Both have gate to wire wins to their credit last out in state bred allowance races. Right Now Ritchie will be on the only speed breaking from the inside as he drew the rail. According to Brisnet, the rail at Hawthorne has been winning at a rate of 23% and Right Now Richie should be able to save all the ground, though he hasn’t won a race since early October.
The stakes are carded as Races 7 and 8 with estimated post times of 4:50 and 5:20 Central Time.