04/22/2008 12:00AM

Golden Velvet poised for big year


STICKNEY, Ill. - Who knows how Illinois Derby winner Recapturethe-glory might fare in the Kentucky Derby, and how meaningful his stopover at Hawthorne might prove after the dust settles. But another Hawthorne stakes graduate, Golden Velvet, most definitely bears watching as the major summer races approach.

Golden Velvet was impressive winning the Sixty Sails here on Saturday, probably running the best race of the American phase of her career in so doing. She beat favored Tessa Blue by 3 1/2 lengths, and for running 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.30 over a tiring racetrack, Golden Velvet was given a Beyer Speed Figure of 105, one of the best female route numbers handed out so far this year.

Golden Velvet, a 5-year-old Seeking the Gold mare owned by the Darley stable, appeared to exit her Hawthorne victory in good physical condition, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Tuesday. She has shipped back to McLaughlin's string at Keeneland, but will be moved to the Saratoga training track within a week and will target the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 14 at Belmont Park for her next race.

"At this time, being as she's a graded stakes winner now twice, we would like to get a Grade 1 placing," McLaughlin said.

Golden Velvet made her first U.S. start just last October. In January, she dead-heated for first place in the Sabin Handicap at Gulfstream, after which a sponge was found to have been inserted into her nasal passage. The sponging incident - a felony - may have led to an infection, and after watching Golden Velvet perform here Saturday, McLaughlin thinks the mare may not have shown her best over the winter.

"Eibar [Coa], he just felt like she was better on the day this time," McLaughlin said.

The Beyer Speed Figure-makers for Hawthorne also liked Ryan's for Real's victory Saturday in the Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap: He was given a 106. Ryan's for Real is likely to race next in the Pimlico Special on May 16, the day before the Preakness, trainer Dale Capuano said after Saturday's race.

Bourque, 19, among top riders

With 15 wins this Hawthorne meet, the 19-year-old jockey David Bourque sits sixth in the local rider standings - which is not at all bad for a guy who had never even seen Chicago until he moved his tack here for this meet.

Bourque, a native of Lafayette, La., is the son of Curt Bourque, who presently rides in Louisiana, but used to be a regular on the Chicago circuit.

"My dad was very successful in Chicago," David Bourque said before his first mount on Monday's card. "He left a good name for the boy, so I thought I'd try to carry it on. He sent me up here with [jockey agent] Kenny Danna."

Bourque began his career in 2006 at Evangeline Downs, and rode 33 winners that year while making a brief swing to New York, with an even briefer stopover in Kentucky. In 2007, Bourque's first season without an apprentice allowance, his win rate dropped to 6 percent, and he scored only 22 victories for the year. At Delta Downs this winter, Bourque was 4 for 75, and the move to Hawthorne clearly has provided a boost. Not even a third of the way into the year, he has won almost as many races as in all of 2007.

Bourque, who said he tacks between 115 and 117 pounds, plans to stay in Chicago for the Arlington meet, where competition for mounts will be much tougher. But for another racing week, at least, he can stay in this little groove - especially if trainer Tom Tomillo keeps feeding him mounts.

Bourque has ridden nine winners from 44 mounts for Tomillo, who through Monday trailed Frank Kirby by two victories (20-18) in the race for leading trainer. Tomillo's barn started this meet 1 for 24, but has won with 16 starters in the last four racing weeks.

Ashe's Cat speed play Thursday

Thursday's card includes two second-level allowance races, but race 7 looks more interesting than race 4. The fourth is a sprint for fillies that drew a field of just six, and should have recent Tom Amoss-trained claim Thunder and Belle as a solid favorite. The seventh, carded at 1o1/16 miles and not restricted by gender, has eight entries, and is definitely a deeper race.

How the featured seventh turns out will be in part determined by whether the Hawthorne track surface remains the same during the two dark days this week, or changes its profile from the last racing week. The track was slow and demanding over the weekend and on Monday's card, and horses on or near the pace appeared to have a decided advantage.

If that trend holds, Ashe's Cat - who appears to be speed from the fence - could lead all the way in race 7. Ashe's Cat gets a positive class hike from a $25,000 claimer to this second-level allowance race, and should improve in his second start of the year.

The list of logical contenders also must include Silver Legacy and Galloping Home, the two-three finishers in a race at this class level on April 4.

Fifty Illinois-breds entered for Saturday

A total of 50 horses entered Monday in the six Illinois-bred stakes races carded for Saturday's program at Hawthorne. It's interesting that this year, there are no out-of-state shippers for any of the Illinois-bred stakes. All the best Illinois-breds apparently already are in Chicago.

The races include just about all the usual suspects. Eligible to have big days are trainers Chris Block, Richard Hazelton, and Christine Janks, all of whom have starters in three different stakes.