10/05/2010 2:37PM

Dundalk Dust's last may be better than it appears


STICKNEY, Ill. – Eighty-two horses started on Hawthorne’s opening-day card Friday, 96 more ran Saturday, and 97 were entered in the nine races carded for Thursday. So far, the decision to drop Sunday racing this fall and cut back to a four-day racing week is looking like a good one.

The bustling pace of entries extends to the featured ninth race Thursday, a second-level allowance race also open to $30,000 claimers and carded for 1 1/16 miles on grass. A full field of 12 fillies and mares was entered, plus two more horses on the also-eligible list.

The race favorite? Hard to say for sure, but Gladsong, Cave Creeker, and Dundalk Dust are candidates. Gladsong already has turned in a solid 2010 campaign, with 2 wins, 4 seconds, and a third in 8 starts this year. Her Arlington form looks strong on paper, with two seconds and a win in her last three starts, but the field she faces Thursday may be deeper than those she recently encountered.

Cave Creeker and Dundalk Dust, on the other hand, both drop in class from the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Both horses are closers, and closers made no impact whatever in the Pucker Up, won wire-to-wire by Dade Babe. Take with a grain of salt the Pucker Up’s fractional times, since the timer failed to start when the horses did, and the race subsequently was hand-timed. There seems little chance, for instance, that Dundalk Dust raced 20 lengths behind an opening half-mile in 49.60 seconds, as the published information would have us believe. Dade Babe appeared to be moving quite fast passing the stands the first time, and she never came back to her pursuers. It was one of those freakish race shapes that can easily throw a handicapper off, and Dundalk Dust might have performed creditably to rally for fourth.

How Dundalk Dust performs on the Hawthorne turf course is an unknown, but Cave Creeker, a flat sixth in the Pucker Up, finished a decent second here in the spring. Cave Creeker, however, has kept a steady racing schedule since early March, and after consistent improvement through the summer, her form may now be in decline.

Don’t like any of the top three betting choices? Fine: There are plenty of alternatives these days at Hawthorne.