09/23/2008 11:00PM

Gold Cup gets seven despite crowded calendar

Email

STICKNEY, Ill. - On Tuesday, Hawthorne stakes coordinator Debbie Lindsay was washing out over the prospect of a sadly short field in Saturday's Hawthorne Gold Cup, but when entries closed Wednesday, Hawthorne's signature race had drawn seven horses. That number is more than respectable given the current state of the handicap division and the fact that the Gold Cup goes up against three other races in the division: the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Kentucky Cup Classic, and the Goodwood Handicap.

Even so, the Gold Cup is a Grade 2 race worth $500,000, and - no knock on the seven entered - this is not a strong Grade 2, $500,000 field. From the rail out, the Gold Cup consists of Wayzata Bay, Brothers Nicholas, Canela, Magna Graduate, Fairbanks, Barcola, and Better Than Bonds. Those horses have combined to win only 10 of 43 starts this year, and the entire field has but one graded stakes win, Wayzata Bay's 38-1 upset in the Grade 2 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. The trio that might be the top three betting choices - Fairbanks, Magna Graduate, and Better Than Bonds - have combined to win one race from 18 starts in 2008.

Student Council won the race last year after having captured the Pacific Classic, and he was a winner worthy of the Gold Cup as currently constituted, but Hawthorne officials acknowledged this week that they would consider revisiting the Gold Cup's purse and position on the calendar in future years, given recent trends.

"Next year, it falls a week later, and should be in a better spot," said Hawthorne president Tim Carey. "But do we have to look at it? Yes."

Canela was cross-entered in the Kentucky Cup Classic, but if he starts here, Canela will hark back to the 2004 Gold Cup. Trainer Mike Maker won the race that year with longshot Freefourinternet, who was piloted by Greta Kuntzweiler. Maker also trains Canela, a former claimer, and has named the rising female jockey Inez Karlsson to ride Saturday.

Carey draws 11 to lead undercard

The Gold Cup is part of an appealing card here Saturday, one with several other stakes races, including the Grade 3, $150,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial, a one-mile grass race. A short field in the Carey also was feared, but this race also exceeded expectations, drawing 11 entries.

There are potential scratches, however: Dynaman and Tom Archdeacon both ran last Saturday at Arlington in the John Henry Stakes, while Chief Thief raced the same day at Kentucky Downs. Media Play and Jungle Fighter are a Frank Stronach-owned, Justin Nixon-trained coupled entry, with jockey E.T. Baird named on both.

Dynaman, if he runs, will be seeking his fifth consecutive victory. Purchased privately at auction last winter, Dynaman was a struggling one-time winner going into the Arlington meet, but he won three allowance races before scoring by 1 1/4 lengths with a flashy run Saturday in the John Henry. Danny Miller, a veteran local horseman, trains and co-owns Dynaman.

Galantas, in from Maryland for trainer Graham Motion with Jeremy Rose named to ride, could be favored despite the fact that he hasn't raced in more than a year. When last seen, however, Galantas finished third behind Shakespeare and Kip Deville in the 2007 Woodbine Mile.

Strong workout by Lewis Michael

Trainer Wayne Catalano, fresh off an Arlington meet where more than 40 percent of his starters won, has 37 stalls at Hawthorne, but his best horses are going to Keeneland this weekend. The cream of the Catalano crop includes Lewis Michael, who will train straight up to the Breeders' Cup - and apparently train up to it with flash. Lewis Michael had a solo six-furlong work in 1:10.80 on Saturday at Arlington, a work faster than most of the races run at that distance this summer at Arlington.

"It was a fantastic work," Catalano said. "The track was fast that day, but he went nice and easy."

Lewis Michael won the Pat O'Brien over seven furlongs at Del Mar last month, earning a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but Catalano confirmed that Lewis Michael will be pointed for the BC Dirt Mile, with the Sprint as a backup.

Dreaming of Anna also is shipping to Keeneland for an intended start in the First Lady Stakes, a one-mile turf race.

Catalano, however, said he is taking things easy with Jose Adan, who was disqualified from first to second in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, and might be pointed to a race at Churchill Downs in November.

"I'm going to freshen him up a little," Catalano said. "He ran pretty hard, and he ran three races already. Lets give him a chance to develop: He's supposed to be better at 3."

Catalano, who co-owns Jose Adan with his wife, Renee, has appealed the Arlington-Washington disqualification, and his appeal will be heard Thursday at Hawthorne.

Wade, Torres back in Chicago

Bug-boy Lyndie Wade, who was involved in a terrifying spill here last fall, has returned to Chicago from Kentucky and will ride the Hawthorne meet. Also back in town is veteran Cisco Torres, a Chicagoan whose various comebacks have consistently been derailed by substance-abuse problems.

Paul Nolan, the Canterbury Park standby, also has moved his tack to Hawthorne, and at the moment appears to be riding first call for Steve Asmussen, who has a major presence at Hawthorne this fall. Nolan also figures to get business from Jamie Ness and Mike Stidham.

Six-figure prize for online contest

Hawthorne is running an online "survivor" contest offering a $250,000 prize to any player who can last the entire fall meet. Participants merely choose one horse every racing day; if the horse finishes third or better, the player survives. The contest currently offers a $2,500 first-place prize, which Hawthorne hopes to boost to $5,000.