12/20/2011 3:50PM

Hawthorne: Choragus may get sufficient pace to launch rally


STICKNEY, Ill. – Maturity has toned down trainer Chris Block’s level of emotion when his horses race, but even now Block remains a fierce competitor. One could almost feel him seething – inwardly now, of course – when Choragus took a very tough beat Dec. 2 at Hawthorne.

A one-run closing sprinter, Choragus was stuck in last behind a glacial pace that day (the leader of the 6 1/2-furlong race passed the half-mile in more than 48 seconds) but still launched a strong stretch rally. She split horses at the eighth pole and seemed destined for victory, but would up losing by a nose.

Choragus will get one more chance this year as she is one of six fillies and mares entered in the featured fourth race Thursday at Hawthorne, a third-level allowance also open to $80,000 claimers. The race is at six furlongs, and while the shorter distance might work against Choragus, there at least should be a recognizable sprint pace this time around. Bent Missile, who moves up in class, is a proven front-runner who might not be able to go a half as slow as 48 seconds if she tried, while another new shooter, Helen Belen, figures to press the pace on the outside. With a legitimate half-mile fraction, Choragus, who has won 2 of her 4 Hawthorne starts, ought to be able to rally in time for victory.

Block has another entrant in the race, Dundalk Dust, but she is totally unproven in sprints. Helen Belen, however, has to be considered. She failed to show her best on Turfway’s Polytrack finishing ninth in a Dec. 3 stakes race, but on Nov. 11 won at this same class level racing over Churchill dirt.

Also entered are Wild Hope, the horse who beat Choragus by a nose, and Cruise, who finished a head behind her in a three-horse photo. Both those horses, however, benefited from racing on the same slow pace that compromised Choragus, and on a level playing field Choragus is their superior.

Geroux, Brueggeman atop standings

Constantino Roman made a nice middle move to reach second in the rider standings (he had 53 winners entering this racing week), but Florent Geroux is poised to capture the first riding title of his career when this meet concludes at the end of December. Geroux was sitting on 67 wins through Sunday’s action, though his strike rate has cooled considerably since a sizzling start to the meet.

Roger Brueggeman, who has used Geroux as his primary rider, is coasting to the trainers’ title. Through Sunday, he had 45 wins at the meet, 25 more than Block and Joel Berndt.