10/05/2009 11:00PM

Auspicious Risk key to pick four

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Winning pick four wagers at Hawthorne paid outlandish prices opening week. Consider Saturday, where the early $2 pick four returned $1,075 on winners whose odds were 3-1, 7-2, 7-5, and 7-2. That was well more than twice the amount of a win parlay, and the late pick four was even crazier: Winners at 3-1, 9-5, 1-1, and 4-1 generated a $935 payoff on a $2 bet.

Thursday's late pick four sequence starts with a bottom-level maiden-claimer, and then moves to a low-level open claimer, but finishes off with two interesting allowance races. Race 8 is at two turns on dirt and for second-level Illinois-bred allowance horses; the nightcap is a six-furlong entry-level allowance race for 2-year-olds.

In the eighth, Sundae Slew probably will be favored, since his Arlington form was solid, and he won well over this 1 1/16-mile distance last fall at Hawthorne. Last Demand, Timeless Facts, and Devil Me Not are the second-level contenders; the other four in the race aren't hopeless, but belong on pick four tickets only for those with deep pockets or special insight.

The 2-year-old, six-furlong allowance seems less easily separated. Most of the form here was established over Arlington Polytrack, most of the nine entrants have shown speed, and six of the horses are Illinois-bred.

Kentucky-bred Auspicious Risk, a $150,000 auction buy last February, looks good for a couple reasons. He won his debut in July at Arlington racing from off the pace, a potential asset if even half the apparent speed shows up Thursday. And Auspicious Risk has been pointed to a dirt start since he failed to fire in the Spectacular Bid Stakes on Aug. 8 at Arlington. Thirteen days later, Auspicious Risk was back on the work tab, and he has breezed six times since that last start, including a half-mile mud work Oct. 3 at Hawthorne.

"We were trying to find dirt somewhere for him," said trainer Bret Calhoun. "We've liked this horse all along. He worked good at Churchill before we sent him to Arlington."

One of the Illinois-breds, Thats Whatshesaid, also is a filly facing colts, but she may have a chance. Thats Whatshesaid ran competitively in fast open maiden races at Arlington, and failed to show her best stretching out to a mile in the Arlington-Washington Lassie. Like Auspicious Risk, she has won coming from off the pace, and speed has so far not been holding well at this early stage of the Hawthorne fall-winter meet.