10/01/2009 12:00AM

Ciao and Wise River target stakes repeats


STICKNEY, Ill. - Ciao won the $100,000 Indian Maid Handicap, race 6 on the Hawthorne Gold Cup card in 2008. In race 9, Wise River won the Grade 3, $100,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap. Even the race placement is the same here Saturday on the 2009 Gold Cup card, and both Ciao and Wise River have at least a decent chance of repeating in the two grass stakes.

Wise River may merely need the weather to hold. After an historically wet start to the 2009 summer, everything dried up here in August and September. As of Thursday, the grass course was as firm as could be - a plus for Wise River - but there is rain in the forecast through Saturday. In his last six firm-turf starts, including last year's Carey, Wise River has 2 wins and 3 seconds, and the lone poor performance came when Wise River bit off more than he could chew facing Grade 1 milers in the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. But in his two most recent starts, Wise River finished fifth and sixth, and it seems more than coincidental that those races came on courses rated yielding.

Wise River and jockey Jamie Theriot drew the outside post in a nine-horse field, but that should be no great problem. A 6-year-old horse based in Kentucky with Clark Hanna, Wise River has rateable speed and could drop into a perfect spot just in behind likely pacesetters Spotsgone and Exchanging Kisses.

Sebastian County classes up decently in the Carey but is unproven on turf. Only twice has he tried grass, and it's possible neither race gave a true representation of Sebastian County's actual turf ability. Starting on Prairie Meadows dirt last month, Sebastian County rallied well for second behind Gold Cup starter Stonehouse.

Public Speaker comes off a career-best performance, a perfect-trip victory in the $100,000 Sea O' Erin last month at Arlington. Breaking from an outside post on an unfamiliar course, his task could be more difficult Saturday.

Ciao, on the other hand, knows the Hawthorne grass course - and she likes it. In 4 starts here, she has 3 wins and 1 second, and Ciao finished strongly winning the Indian Maid by a half-length last fall. In this year's edition of the 1 1/16-mile grass race, Ciao drew well in post 2, but she comes into the race having lost all her prior starts in 2009. Worth noting: Ciao also was winless in 2008 before capturing the Indian Maid.

Rail-drawn is first-time turfer Abby's Angel, who has won 3 of 5 starts, with victories on dirt and synthetic. Given the versatility she has demonstrated so far, Abby's Angel could easily show her best Saturday while making her turf debut. She should be close to the front throughout.

Final Refrain disappointed a little last out at Saratoga, Happiness Is more so in her most recent start at Kentucky Downs, but either could rebound in the Indian Maid. Hungry Tigress should be part of the early pace picture, based on the way she won an off-the-turf stakes last out over Mountaineer mud. Hungry Tigress also should get extra consideration if the Indian Maid should wind up on a wet Hawthorne main track.