09/29/2009 11:00PM

Gold Cup lures a diverse group

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Okay, so it's not an international event. But the horses in Saturday's $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup, a complex mix, are coming from all over this country.

The Hawthorne racing office generally was busy Wednesday taking entries for Saturday's card; 104 were entered on a 10-race program, which has the $100,000 Carey Memorial and the $100,000 Indian Maid as supporting stakes for the Grade 2, 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup. And the Gold Cup itself got swept along in the action, with 11 names passing the entry box early Wednesday afternoon.

Three horses are based at Hawthorne, but the rest come from seven different venues, with stock in from New York, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and California.

Awesome Gem is the most recognizable name in the race, and he should vie for favoritism Saturday with Jonesboro and Nite Light. Awesome Gem's last major shipping experience, a trip to Hong Kong, was far more challenging than flying to Chicago. Overseas, he finished 12th on grass in the Hong Kong Mile, but a fast-closing second two months ago in the Longacres Mile, Awesome Gem's first dirt race in many starts, apparently encouraged his connections to try the Gold Cup.

Jonesboro finished second to Student Council in the 2007 Gold Cup, his only start beyond 1 1/8 miles. Jonesboro most recently finished second as the odds-on favorite in the Governor's Cup at Remington Park. Going Ballistic, the horse that beat him, also was entered in the Gold Cup.

Nite Light, trained by Todd Pletcher, easily won the Turfway Park Fall Championship on Sept. 12, but earlier in the summer was defeated by fellow Gold Cup entrants Alcomo and Eldaafer in two different races.

Shipping from Florida is You and I Forever, a third-level allowance horse who never has won a stakes. New York-based Lowther Street is even less accomplished, having won a Saratoga entry-level allowance in his most recent start.