10/08/2008 11:00PM

Big money lures Adriano to derby


STICKNEY, Ill. – At $250,000, the purse for the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby is somewhat surprisingly fat, when you consider that most really good grass horses, 3-year-old or otherwise, probably are pointing to the Breeders’ Cup. A Keeneland race this weekend in that division, the Grade 3 Bryan Station, offers a $150,000 purse, and last weekend’s Grade 2 Jamaica at Belmont, which had top-shelf runners Court Vision and Gio Ponti, also was worth $250,000.

But the good money surely is part of the reason Adriano was entered Wednesday for the Hawthorne Derby on Saturday, and his presence here pretty much makes the race. Adriano was one of eight horses entered in the Hawthorne Derby, and he should be a heavy favorite under Kent Desormeaux.

The trainer is all right, too. Bill Mott won the Hawthorne Derby in 2004 with Cool Conductor, and won it again in 2005 with Gun Salute. The race has worked for him before, and it will work for Adriano.

“The conditions fit him – straight 3-year-olds at a mile and an eighth,” Mott said. “Nine furlongs seems like a good distance.”

Adriano joined Mott’s barn late this spring when owner Donald Adam transferred several horses out of Graham Motion’s stable. His first start for Mott came in the Colonial Turf Cup, which was run right after a deluge on a very wet grass course. Adriano finished fifth there, and came back with a very troubled fourth-place finish in the Aug. 4 Hall of Fame at Saratoga before breaking through with a win Aug. 30 in the Kent Stakes at Delaware.

“This race might be the end of the season for him,” said Mott. “We’ll see how he runs and how he comes out of it. He’s been training right on since he was a 2-year-old. We’d talked about giving him a break and bringing him back as a 4-year-old. He’s a big, good-looking horse who could have a nice future.”

Cherokee Triangle, winner of two straight $50,000 turf stakes, might be the second choice behind Adriano. Let It Rock enters in good form, but has never raced on turf. Snoose Goose looked good winning an overnight turf stakes last time out at Arlington. Mr. Mischief, Robscarvic, Strait of Mewsina, and Denim complete the field.

The secondary feature Saturday is the $75,000 Mary Keim Illinois Owners’ Stakes, a one-mile grass race for fillies and mares. The 11-horse field might have 3-year-old Apple Martini as a tepid favorite.

Miss Macy Sue shopping for spot

Last year, Miss Macy Sue raced in the Masters Stakes at Presque Isle Downs in September, came to Hawthorne to train, and then shipped out to Monmouth for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. This year, Miss Macy Sue raced in the Masters Stakes and came to Hawthorne to train, but that’s where the parallel breaks down. Though she finished second to the good filly Wild Gams in the Sept. 13 Masters, Miss Macy Sue is “probably not” going to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita this year, trainer Kelly Von Hemel said Wednesday.

“We’re still looking around to see what our options are for her,” said Von Hemel. “This will be her last year racing, and hopefully we can find one or two more spots for her.”

Von Hemel’s male graded-stakes-class sprinter Semaphore Man will return to dirt after poor performances in two recent Polytrack sprints. Semaphore Man finished seventh last weekend in the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland, after which jockey Robby Albarado told Von Hemel that Semaphore Man, winner of the Grade 3 Count Fleet in April at Oaklawn, did not care for the all-weather surface.

Big fields Friday

The real feature on Friday’s card is field size. Excluding also-eligibles, 106 horses were entered on the nine-race program.

As for actual races, the day’s highest-class fare probably is race 6, an entry-level turf allowance that should have Elle Tish Slew as the favorite. When last she started on grass, Elle Tish Slew finished a close fourth in the $200,000 American 1,000 Guineas at Arlington.