10/18/2012 3:05PM

Hawthorne: Absence of Third Chance opens door in Powerless

Four-Footed Fotos
Third Chance is unable to run in Saturday's Powerless Stakes at Hawthorne because of an equine herpesvirus outbreak.

STICKNEY, Ill. – The absence of Third Chance from the $125,000 Powerless Stakes on Saturday at Hawthorne leaves a gaping hole in the race, but there are no holes in the $125,000 Lightning Jet, which drew a field of 11 that’s deep and strong for an Illinois-bred restricted stakes race.

Third Chance, who has won multiple Illinois-bred championship honors during her career, was to make the final start of her career in the Powerless, a six-furlong dash that she won in 2011 by more than six lengths. But Third Chance is trained by Jim DiVito, the trainer whose horses are at the center of the equine herpesvirus outbreak at Hawthorne. Third Chance has so far avoided sickness, but she and every other horse in the barn are isolated indefinitely. Co-owner Ron Magers said Wednesday that Third Chance might yet find another race before she is retired but that she will be bred in 2012 to Hard Spun.

Third Chance’s misfortune leaves an opening for several horses who’d be unlikely to beat her Saturday, two of whom are owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds and trained by Roger Brueggemann. Midwest claimed Missjeanlouise for $40,000 on June 24 and has not raced her since, but she has been working steadily and fast at Hawthorne for Brueggemann, a normally excellent layoff trainer whose runners got off to a slow start opening week but have been showing recent signs life. Missjeanlouise was second to Third Chance in a spring sprint stakes at Hawthorne, where she has won five of her nine starts.

Tayler’s Destiny, the other Midwest-Brueggemann horse, is slightly less appealing but still in the discussion while another filly, Remembermealways, has been working smartly for trainer Kim Lunsford.

Meanwhile, River Bear’s status as the top older-male Illinois-bred sprinter appears to be in jeopardy when he starts in the Lightning Jet, and that’s because St. Maximus Gato has showed up for the race. St. Maximux Gato showed his talent two autumns ago when he finished third behind Lookin at Lucky in the Indiana Derby. St. Maximus Gato moved from that race to the Buck’s Boy Stakes at Hawthorne but finished second as the heavy favorite and struggled for some time thereafter.

Tthis year, trainer Donald Hunt has focused almost exclusively on sprint races, and St. Maximus Gato has flourished. He had a tough trip when beaten a neck in the $100,000 Sen. Robert Byrd Stakes at Mountaineer in August but has won four high-end allowance sprint races dating to June.

River Bear, a 17-time winner of almost $800,000, is sure to do down with a fight, if he goes down at all, though he was a lackluster fifth in his most recent Chicago stakes start, the White Oak in June at Arlington. River Bear looked more like himself when easily winning the Tex’s Zing last month at Fairmount, and there should be pace to set up his late run Saturday.

Also in the Lightning Jet is the 2011 winner, Four Left Feet, as well as two more Brueggemann-trained starters, Signsealdeliver and Catfeinated.